Biological staining: mechanisms and theory

Horobin, R.W. (2002) Biological staining: mechanisms and theory. Biotechnic and Histochemistry, 77(1), pp. 3-13. (doi: 10.1080/bih. (PMID:11991329)

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New staining techniques continue to be introduced, and older ones continue to be used and improved. Several factors control specificity, selectivity and visibility of the end product in any procedure using dyes, fluorochromes, inorganic reagents or histochemical reactions applied to sections or similar preparations. Local concentration of the tissue target often determines the intensity of the observed color, as does the fine structure within the object being stained, which may facilitate or impede diffusion of dyes and other reagents. Several contributions to affinity control the specificity of staining. These include electrical forces, which result in accumulation of dye ions in regions of oppositely charged tissue polyions. Weaker short-range attractions (hydrogen bonding, van der Waals forces or hydrophobic bonding, depending on the solvent) hold dyes ions and histochemical end products in contact with their macromolecular substrates. Nonionic forces can also increase visibility of stained sites by causing aggregation of dye molecules. Covalent bonds between dye and tissue result in the strongest binding, such as in methods using Schiff's reagent and possibly also some mordant dyes. The rate at which a reagent gains access to or is removed from targets in a section or other specimen affect what is stained, especially when more then one dye is used, together or sequentially. Rate-controlled staining is greatly influenced by the presence and type of embedding medium, such as a resin, that infiltrates the tissue. The rates of chemical reactions are major determinants of outcome in many histochemical techniques. Selective staining of different organelles within living cells is accomplished mainly with fluorochromes and is controlled by mechanisms different from those that apply to fixed tissues. Quantitative structure-activity relations (QSAR) of such reagents can be derived from such molecular properties as hydrophilic-hydrophobic balance, extent of conjugated bond systems, acid-base properties and ionic charge. The QSAR correlates with staining of endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, mitochondria, DNA, or the plasma membranes of living cells.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Horobin, Dr Richard
Authors: Horobin, R.W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Chemistry
Journal Name:Biotechnic and Histochemistry
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1473-7760

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