Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy for Single Molecule Protein Detection

Sci Rep. 2019 Aug 26;9(1):12356. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-48650-y.


A two-step process of protein detection at a single molecule level using SERS was developed as a proof-of-concept platform for medical diagnostics. First, a protein molecule was bound to a linker in the bulk solution and then this adduct was chemically reacted with the SERS substrate. Traut's Reagent (TR) was used to thiolate Bovine serum albumin (BSA) in solution followed by chemical cross linking to a gold surface through a sulfhydryl group. A Glycine-TR adduct was used as a control sample to identify the protein contribution to the SER spectra. Gold SERS substrates were manufactured by electrochemical deposition. Solutions at an ultralow concentration were used for attaching the TR adducts to the SERS substrate. Samples showed the typical behavior of a single molecule SERS including spectral fluctuations, blinking and Raman signal being generated from only selected points on the substrate. The fluctuating SER spectra were examined using Principle Component Analysis. This unsupervised statistics allowed for the selecting of spectral contribution from protein moiety indicating that the method was capable of detecting a single protein molecule. Thus we have demonstrated, that the developed two-step methodology has the potential as a new platform for medical diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Cattle
  • Glycine / analysis
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / analysis*
  • Single Molecule Imaging*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman*
  • Tyrosine / analysis


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Tyrosine
  • Glycine