Nanoscale chemical characterization of biomolecules using tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy†
Nanoscale chemical and structural characterization of single biomolecules and assemblies is of paramount importance for applications in biology and medicine. It aims to describe the molecular structure of biomolecules and their interaction with unprecedented spatial resolution to better comprehend underlying molecular mechanisms of biological processes involved in cell activity and diseases. Tip-enhanced Raman scattering (TERS) spectroscopy appears particularly appealing to reach these objectives. This state-of-the-art TERS technique is as versatile as it is ultrasensitive. To perform a successful TERS experiment, special care and a thorough methodology for the preparation of the TERS system, the TERS probe tip, and sample are needed. Intense efforts have been deployed to characterize nucleic acids, proteins and peptides, lipid membranes, and more complex systems such as cells and viruses using TERS. Although the vast majority of studies have first been performed in dry conditions, they have allowed for several scientific breakthroughs. These include DNA and RNA sequencing, and the determination of relationships between protein structure and biological function by the use of increasingly exploitative chemometric tools for spectral data analysis. The nanoscale determination of the secondary structure of amyloid fibrils, protofibrils and oligomers implicated in neurodegenerative diseases could, for instance, be connected with the toxicity of these species, amyloid formation pathways, and their interaction with phospholipids. Single particles of different viral strains could be distinguished from one another by comparison of their protein and lipid contents. In addition, TERS has allowed for the evermore accurate description of the molecular organization of lipid membranes. Very recent advances also demonstrated the possibility to carry out TERS in aqueous medium, which opens thrilling perspectives for the TERS technique in biological, biomedical, and potential clinical applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Nanoscale Spectroscopy