Mucosubstances in the porcine gastrointestinal tract: Fixation, staining and quantification
Mucins are of great interest in intestinal research and histochemical methods are often employed to identify them. Since it is in the nature of mucins that they are “hard to hold onto” once they come into contact with water, a frequently used medium in histochemistry, there are a number of challenges that may decrease diagnostic accuracy. As the outcome of methods published for microscopic detection of mucosubstances proved to be unsatisfactory in our hands, the aim was the establishment of a reliable and reproducible protocol. Tissue samples were available from pig feeding experiments. In the present study, we focus on a fixation / staining procedure without making comparisons between differently fed pigs. Several fixation and staining procedures were evaluated for their use in semiautomatic quantification and quality assessment of different mucus fractions simultaneous on one tissue section. Cryostat sectioning, subsequent fixation steps with heat, ethanol and modified Bouin’s solution, followed by triple staining with high iron diamine, alcian blue and periodic acid-Schiff turned out to be the best method to identify sulfomucin, sialomucin and neutral mucin simultaneous on one tissue section. This methodology resulted in very good morphology of goblet cells with intact mucin containing vesicles within the cells, which was comparable to ultrastructural electron microscopical observations. Semiautomatic quantification of different mucins was possible. In conclusion, reliable mucus quantification and assessment of mucus quality requires strictly tested procedures. According to our experience, the most important aim after cryosectioning is fast fixation of the mucosubstances, which requires a combination of different fixation steps.
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