Understanding of the complex interactions of molecules at biological interfaces is a fundamental issue in biochemistry, biotechnology as well as biomedicine. A plethora of biological processes are ruled by the molecular texture of cellular membrane: cellular communications, drug transportations and cellular recognition are just a few examples of such chemically-mediated processes. Tip-Enhanced Raman Scattering (TERS) is a novel, Raman-based technique which is ideally suited for this purpose. TERS relies on the combination of scanning probe microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The basic idea is the use of a metalled tip as a sort of optical nano-antenna, which gives place to SERS effect close to the tip end. Herein, we present the application of TERS to analyze the surface of Bacillus subtilis spores. The choice of this biological systems is related to the fact that a number of reasons support the use of spores as a mucosal delivery system. The remarkable and well-documented resistance of spores to various environmental and toxic effects make them clear potentials as a novel, surface-display system. Our experimental outcomes demonstrate that TERS is able to provide a nano-scale chemical imaging of spore surface. Moreover, we demonstrate that TERS allows differentiation between wilde-type spore and genetically modified strains. These results hold promise for the characterization and optimization of spore surface for drug-delivery applications.

© 2015 SPIE

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