Enhanced Raman scattering from metal surfaces has been investigated for over 30 years1. Silver surfaces are known to produce a large effect, and this can be maximized by producing a roughened surface, which can be achieved by the aggregation of silver nanoparticles2, 3, 4. However, an approach to control this aggregation, in particular through the interaction of biological molecules such as DNA, has not been reported. Here we show the selective turning on of the surface enhanced resonance Raman scattering5 effect on dye-coded, DNA-functionalized, silver nanoparticles through a target-dependent, sequence-specific DNA hybridization assembly that exploits the electromagnetic enhancement mechanism for the scattering. Dye-coded nanoparticles that do not undergo hybridization experience no enhancement and hence do not give surface enhanced resonance Raman scattering. This is due to the massive difference in enhancement from nanoparticle assemblies compared with individual nanoparticles. The electromagnetic enhancement is the dominant effect and, coupled with an understanding of the surface chemistry, allows surface enhanced resonance Raman scattering nanosensors to be designed based on a natural biological recognition process.