The need for new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of challenging diseases such as cancer, which often consists of a highly heterogeneous and complex population of cells, brought up the idea of analyzing single cells. The development of novel techniques to analyze single cells has been intensively studied to fully understand specific alternations inducing abnormalities in cellular function. One of the techniques used for single cell analysis is surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) in which a noble metal nanoparticle is used to enhance Raman scattering. Due to its low toxicity and biocompatibility, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are commonly preferred as SERS substrates in single cell analysis. The intracellular uptake, localization and toxicity issues of AuNPs are the critical points for interpretation of data since the obtained SERS signals originate from molecules in close vicinity to AuNPs that are taken up by the cells. In this review, the AuNP–living cell interactions, cellular uptake and toxicity of AuNPs in relation to their physicochemical properties, and surface-enhanced Raman scattering from single cells are discussed.
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