Importance of fixation in immunohistochemistry: Use of formaldehyde solutions at variable pH for the localization of tyrosine hydroxylase

A. Berod, B. K. Hartman, J. F. Pujol

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Abstract

Adequate fixative in immunohistochemistry requires not only a rapid and total immobilization of the antigen, but also a sufficient preservation of its immunoreactivity and maintenance of its accessibility to the immunochemical reagents for localization. Thus, the optimal fixation condition for a specific antigen necessitates a compromise between these opposing variables and can be determined by the preparation of a series of tissues with a progressively increasing degree of fixation. Unless the results of localization using such a series is available, one must be satisfied with adequate but less than optimal results. In the present study, this principle is demonstrated using the localization of tyrosine hydroxylase in the dopaminergic system with formaldehyde as the fixative. The rate and degree of fixation with formaldehyde was shown to be highly pH dependent. By perfusing the tissue with formaldehyde at pH 6.5 (where the rate of fixation is extremely slow) it is possible to rapidly distribute the fixative homogeneously into the tissue. By suddenly changing to a formaldehyde perfusate of higher pH, the cross-linking reaction is rapidly increased. This two-step fixation procedure provides a means of obtaining a rapid and uniform immobilization of the antigen, so that its translocation can be avoided. The final degree of fixation is controlled by the duration and pH of the second fixative solution. The results obtained by increasing the pH of the second solution demonstrated that complete fixation of tyrosine hydroxylase in the dopaminergic system with formaldehyde may be obtained using a very basic formaldehyde solution (pH 11) while still retaining immunoreactivity of the enzyme. The localization that was achieved at lower pH appeared adequate until it was compared to the results obtained by perfusion at pH 11 in the second step.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)844-850
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Volume29
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1981

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