Quantitative and Label-Free Detection of Protein Kinase A Activity Based on Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy with Gold Nanostars

analytical chemistry, April 26, 2018

Shuai HeYi Mon Ei KyawEddie Khay Ming TanLaurent BekaleMalvin Wei Cherng KangSusana Soo-Yeon KimIvan TanKong-Peng Lam, and James Chen Yong Kah


The activity of extracellular protein kinase A (PKA) is known to be a biomarker for cancer. However, conventional PKA assays based on colorimetric, radioactive, and fluorometric techniques suffer from intensive labeling-related preparations, background interference, photobleaching, and safety concerns. While surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)-based assays have been developed for various enzymes to address these limitations, their use in probing PKA activity is limited due to subtle changes in the Raman spectrum with phosphorylation. Here, we developed a robust colloidal SERS-based scheme for label-free quantitative measurement of PKA activity using gold nanostars (AuNS) as a SERS substrate functionalized with bovine serum albumin (BSA)–kemptide (Kem) bioconjugate (AuNS–BSA–Kem), where BSA conferred colloidal stability and Kem is a high-affinity peptide substrate for PKA. By performing principle component analysis (PCA) on the SERS spectrum, we identified two Raman peaks at 725 and 1395 cm–1, whose ratiometric intensity change provided a quantitative measure of Kem phosphorylation by PKA in vitro and allowed us to distinguish MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells known to overexpress extracellular PKA catalytic subunits from noncancerous human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) based on their PKA activity in cell culture supernatant. The outcome demonstrated potential application of AuNS–BSA–Kem as a SERS probe for cancer screening based on PKA activity.