Determination of intracellular esterase activity using ratiometric Raman sensing and spectral phasor analysis

Henry J. Braddick, William J. Tipping, Liam T. Wilson, Harry S. Jaconelli, Emma K. Grant, Karen Faulds, Duncan Graham, Nicholas C. O. Tomkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Carboxylesterases (CEs) are a class of enzyme that catalyse the hydrolysis of esters in a variety of endogenous and exogenous molecules. CEs play an important role in drug metabolism, in the onset and progression of disease, and can be harnessed for prodrug activation strategies. As such, the regulation of CEs is an important clinical and pharmaceutical consideration. Here, we report the first ratiometric sensor for CE activity using Raman spectroscopy based on a bisarylbutadiyne scaffold. The sensor was shown to be highly sensitive and specific for CE detection and had low cellular cytotoxicity. In hepatocyte cells, the ratiometric detection of esterase activity was possible and the result was validated by multimodal imaging with standard viability stains used for fluorescence microscopy within the same cell population. In addition, we show that the detection of localized UV damage in a mixed cell population was possible using stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy coupled with spectral phasor analysis. This sensor demonstrates the practical advantages of low molecular weight sensors that are detected using ratiometric Raman imaging and will have applications in drug discovery and biomedical research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5369–5376
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number12
Early online date16 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2023


  • Carboxylesterases (CEs)
  • drug metabolism
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • hydrocarbons
  • organic compounds
  • peptides and proteins
  • probes
  • sensors


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