Detailed spatial information of low–molecular weight compound distribution, especially in the brain, is crucial to understanding their mechanism of actions. Imaging techniques that can directly visualize drugs in the brain at a high resolution will complement existing tools for drug distribution analysis. Here, we performed surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) imaging using a bioorthogonal alkyne tag to visualize drugs directly in situ at a high resolution. Focusing on the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor S-citalopram (S-Cit), which possesses a nitrile group, we substituted an alkynyl group into its structure and synthesized alkynylated S-Cit (Alk-S-Cit). The brain transitivity and the serotonin reuptake inhibition of Alk-S-Cit were not significantly different as compared with S-Cit. Alk-S-Cit was visualized in the coronal mouse brain section using SERS imaging with silver nanoparticles. Furthermore, SERS imaging combined with fluorescence microscopy allowed Alk-S-Cit to be visualized in the adjacent neuronal membranes, as well as in the brain vessel and parenchyma. Therefore, our multimodal imaging technique is an effective method for detecting low–molecular weight compounds in their original tissue environment and can potentially offer additional information regarding the precise spatial distribution of such drugs.


Masato Tanuma, Atsushi Kasai, Kazuki Bando, Naoyuki Kotoku, Kazuo Harada, Masafumi Minoshima, Kosuke Higashino, Atsushi Kimishima, Masayoshi Arai, Yukio Ago, Kaoru Seiriki, Kazuya Kikuchi, Satoshi Kawata, Katsumasa Fujita, Hitoshi Hashimoto


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