A simple histochemical procedure for assessing relative amounts of neutral and acidic sugars in mucin glycoproteins, and its application in the study of cyclical changes of human cervical mucins, is described. This procedure, the saponification/selective periodate oxidation/borohydride reduction/alcian blue pH 2.5/periodic acid Schiff (KOH/PA*/Bh/Ab 2.5/PAS) method, uses a selective oxidation step to remove the PAS positivity of sialic acid; thus only neutral sugars stain positively with PAS, and acidic sugars (O-sulphate esters and carboxyl groups) stain with alcian blue. This differs from the KOH/Ab/PAS technique which stains sialic acid residues with both alcian blue and PAS. Applying the KOH/PA*/Bh/Ab 2.5/PAS technique to the study of cyclical changes of human cervical mucins, a decreased neutral:acidic sugar ratio in the secretory phase mucins compared with those of the proliferative phase was found. This difference was not seen with KOH/Ab/PAS staining in the same cases. The techniques and reagents used in this procedure can be easily applied in a clinical histopathology laboratory.
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