Reversing the effects of formalin fixation with citraconic anhydride and heat: a universal antigen retrieval method.

The journal of histochemistry and cytochemistry : official journal of the Histochemistry Society

PubMedID: 15637333

Namimatsu S, Ghazizadeh M, Sugisaki Y. Reversing the effects of formalin fixation with citraconic anhydride and heat: a universal antigen retrieval method. J Histochem Cytochem. 2005;53(1):3-11.
Formalin is a commonly used fixative for tissue preservation in pathology laboratories. A major adverse effect of this fixative is the concealing of tissue antigens by protein cross-linking. To achieve a universal antigen retrieval method for immunohistochemistry under a constant condition, we developed a new method in which the effects of formalin fixation were reversed with citraconic anhydride (a reversible protein cross-linking agent) plus heating. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues from various organs were examined for immunohistochemical localization of a wide variety of antigens. Deparaffinized tissue sections were placed in an electric kitchen pot containing 0.05% citraconic anhydride solution, pH 7.4, and the pot was set at "keep warm" temperature mode of 98C for 45 min. This mode allowed heating the sections at a constant temperature. The sections were then washed in buffer solution and immunostained using a labeled streptavidin-biotin method using an automated stainer. In general, formalin-fixed tissues demonstrated specific immunostainings comparable to that in fresh frozen tissues and significantly more enhanced than after conventional antigen retrieval methods. In particular, even difficult-to-detect antigens such as CD4, cyclin D1, granzyme beta, bcl-6, CD25, and lambda chain revealed distinct immunostainings. Different classes of antigens such as cellular markers and receptors, as well as cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins, consistently produced enhanced reactions. This method provides efficient antigen retrieval for successful immunostaining of a wide variety of antigens under an optimized condition. It also allows standardization of immunohistochemistry for formalin-fixed tissues in pathology laboratories, eliminating inter-laboratory discrepancies in results for accurate clinical and research studies.