AIMS: To investigate the effect of tissue preparation on immunostaining and to establish whether there is a standard tissue preparation schedule that allows optimal demonstration of all antigens. METHODS: Blocks of tonsil were subjected to variations to a standard fixation, processing, and section preparation schedule. The sections were stained with five antibodies-L26 (CD20), UCHL1 (CD45RO), CD3, vimentin, and anti-kappa light chain--using the streptavidinbiotin immunostaining technique. When further investigation was necessary, other tissues and antibodies were used and where weak immunostaining was obtained the use of microwave pretreatment to improve staining was tested. RESULTS: Several factors involved in fixation were found to affect immunoreactivity. These included the duration, pH, and type of fixative used. In tissue processing only temperature and the duration of the dehydration and wax infiltration steps affected immunoreactivity. Of all the factors investigated, the temperature and duration of the section drying had the greatest effect. In contrast, long term storage of cut sections before immunostaining had no effect on the reactivity of the antibodies tested. Antibodies were found to be affected by alterations to tissue preparation by varying degrees, UCHL1 and vimentin being the most susceptible to changes in fixation and L26 to changes in processing. Where weak staining occurred, microwave pretreatment was generally found to eliminate the problem. CONCLUSIONS: There is no standard tissue preparation schedule for the optimal demonstration of all antigens. Factors involved in all aspects of tissue preparation can affect immunoreactivity, so it is important that precise details of the preparation schedule are given when reporting immunocytochemical studies, rather than using the general term "routinely fixed and processed".
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