Direct SERDS sensing of molecular biomarkers in plants under field conditions

P. Strobbia1,2, R.A. Odion1,2, M. Maiwald3, B. Sumpf3, T. Vo-Dinh1,2,4

Published in:

Anal. Bioanal. Chem., vol. 412, no. 14, pp. 3457-3466 (2020).

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Molecular biomarkers such as microRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in regulating various developmental processes in plants. Understanding these pathways will help bioengineer designing organisms for efficient biomass accumulation. Current methods for RNA analysis require sample extraction andmulti-step sample analysis, hindering work in field studies. Recent work in the incorporation of nanomaterials for plant bioengineering research is leading the way of an agri-tech revolution. As an example, surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based sensors can be used to monitor RNA in vivo. However, the use of SERS in the field has been limited due to issues with observing Raman signal over complex background. To this end, shifted-excitation Raman difference spectroscopy (SERDS) offers an effective solution to extract the SERS signal from high background based on a physical approach. In thismanuscript, we report the first application of SERDS on SERS sensors.We investigated this technique on SERS sensor developed for the detection of a microRNA biomarker, miR858. We tested the technique on in vitro samples and validated the technique by detecting the presence of exogenous miR858 in plants directly under ambient light in a growth chamber. The possibility of moving the detection of nucleic acid targets outside the constraints of laboratory setting enables numerous important bioengineering applications. Such applications can revolutionize biofuel production and agri-tech through the use of nanotechnology-based monitoring of plant growth, plant health, and exposure to pollution and pathogens.

1 Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics, Duke University, 101 Science Dr.,Durham, NC 27708, USA
2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, 101 Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708, USA
3 Laser Sensors Lab, Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibnitz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik, Gustav-Kirchhoff-Straße 4, 12489 Berlin, Germany
4 Department of Chemistry, Duke University, 124 Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708, USA


Surface-enhanced Raman scattering, Shifted-excitation difference Raman spectroscopy, Sensing, Plants, miRNA, Field conditions