Four newly synthesized poly (propylene amine) dendrimers from first and second generation modified with 1,8-naphthalimide units in the dendrimer periphery have been investigated as ligands for the detection of heavy metal ions (Al3+, Sb2+, As2+, Cd2+ and Pb2+) by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Calibration curves were established for all metal ions between the concentration ranges of 1 x 10(-6) to 5 x 10(-4) M. It has been shown that these dendrimers can be coordinated, especially with different metal ions. Using dendrimer molecules and silver colloids at the same time allowed us to obtain an SERS signal from the abovementioned metal ions at very low concentrations. Principle component analysis (PCA) analysis was also applied to the collected SERS data. Four differentPCA models were developed to accomplish the discrimination of five metal ions, which interacted with each of the four dendrimer molecules, separately. A detailed investigation was performed in the present study to provide the basis of a new approach for heavy metal detection. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.