Confocal SERS mapping of glycan expression for the identification of cancerous cells

Derek Craig, Sarah McAughtrie, Jonathan Simpson, Corinna McCraw, Karen Faulds, Duncan Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Lectin-functionalized silver nanoparticles have been successfully designed for use as molecular imaging agents to investigate carbohydrate-lectin interactions at the surface of mammalian cells, using surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). Carbohydrate-lectin interactions are key to many cellular processes and are responsible for controlling an array of cellular interactions. In this study, lectin-functionalized silver nanoparticles were used to detect the expression of carbohydrate species at the cellular interface. The carbohydrate-lectin interactions were demonstrated using three different lectin species for three distinct cell types. Due to the known difference between the expressions of glycans in cancerous versus noncancerous cells of the same origin, this approach has been expanded to study both cancerous and noncancerous prostate cells. This has been achieved via confocal SERS mapping of the expression of the key glycan, sialic acid, on the surface of each of these cell types. In achieving such discrimination, a novel method has been created by which glycan expression can be reproducibly monitored. Comparative studies were performed using both fluorescence and SERS. SERS provided an increased discrimination over fluorescence when analyzing cell subsets to discriminate between cancerous and noncancerous cells. The success of this method means that it could be used to complement the current gold standard histopathological techniques. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4775-4782
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number10
Early online date20 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2014


  • confocal SERS mapping
  • glycan expression
  • identification
  • cancerous cells


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