A metal nanoparticles-based surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) technique has been developed for biosensing and bioimaging due to its advantages in ultra-narrow line width for multiplexing, ultra-high sensitivity and excellent photostability. However, the “hotspots” effect between nanoparticles usually leads to unstable and nonuniform Raman enhancement, and this will greatly reduce the quality of SERS imaging. In this study, we employ the bridge gaps-enhanced Raman tags (BGERTs) to perform SERS imaging, in which BGERTs can not only reduce the influence of the “hotspots” effect between nanoparticles on Raman signal intensity but provide a great Raman enhancement when the Gold (Au) shell is thick enough. Based on BGERTs and its conjugation with the thiol-terminated polyethylene glycol (PEG) and transferrin, we construct a targeted Transferrin (TF)-PEG-BGERTs SERS nanoprobe and achieve the dynamic imaging of transferrin receptor (TfR) molecules on a single live cell, in which the role of transferrin-conjugated PEG-BGERT is for targeting TfR molecules located in cellular membrane surface. Importantly, this BGERTs-based SERS imaging could potentially provide a useful tool for studying the precise mechanism during the receptor-mediated nanoparticles endocytosis or cell proliferation, apoptosis, and other complicated molecular events.
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