Histological-based stainings using free-floating tissue sections

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Immunohistochemistry is a widely used technique to visualize specific tissue structures as well as protein expression and localization. Two alternative approaches are widely used to handle the tissue sections during the staining procedure, one approach consists of mounting the sections directly on glass slides, while a second approach, the free-floating, allows for fixed sections to be maintained and stained while suspended in solution. Although slide-mounted and free-floating approaches may yield similar results, the free-floating technique allows for better antibody penetration and thus should be the method of choice when thicker sections are to be used for 3D reconstruction of the tissues, for example when the focus of the experiment is to gain information on dendritic and axonal projections in brain regions. In addition, since the sections are kept in solution, a single aliquot can easily accommodate 30 to 40 sections, handling of which is less laborious, particularly in large-scale biomedical studies. Here, we illustrate how to apply the free-floating method to fluorescent immunohistochemistry staining, with a major focus on brain sections. We will also discuss how the free-floating technique can easily be modified to fit the individual needs of researchers and adapted to other tissues as well as other histochemical-based stainings, such as hematoxylin and eosin and cresyl violet, as long as tissue samples are properly fixed, typically with paraformaldehyde or formalin.

Publication Title

Journal of Visualized Experiments