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Serotonin is both a ubiquitous neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and an important immunomodulator involved in various immune responses. The ability to unambiguously detect serotonin is therefore imperative in biomedical research. However, detection of serotonin and related indoles using immunohistochemistry has been largely limited by their small molecular size and the resultant uncertainty in antibody specificity. Here we show that surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) can be used to detect and distinguish serotonin from its various closely related precursors and metabolites. Compared with traditional antibody-based methods, SERS is highly specific and capable of real-time detection. We also quantify the relative concentration of serotonin against a background of other indoles using SERS. We expect this optical detection method to directly benefit a variety of immune and nervous systems studies involving serotonin.
"Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy study of indolic molecules adsorbed on gold colloids," Journal of Biomedical Optics 15(2), 020512 (1 March 2010). http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/1.3400660