Improved methods for detection of β-galactosidase (lacZ) activity in hard tissue

Akemi Shimada, Koichiro Komatsu, Kazuhisa Nakashima, Ernst Pöschl, Akira Nifuji

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The ß-galactosidase gene (lacZ) of Escherichia coli is widely used as a reporter gene. The expression of lacZ can be detected by enzyme-based histochemical staining using chromogenic substrates such as 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-ß-D: -galactoside (X-gal). Because the enzymatic activity of lacZ is vulnerable to high temperatures and acid treatment for demineralization, detection of lacZ on paraffinized sections is difficult, especially for hard tissues, which require demineralization before sectioning in paraffin. To circumvent this problem, whole-mount X-gal staining before sectioning is performed. However, detection of lacZ activity in the center of larger portions of hard whole adult tissues is challenging. In this study, focusing on fixation procedures, we determined the conditions conducive to improved detection of lacZ activity in deeper areas of whole tissues. We used an annexin a5 (Anxa5)-lacZ reporter mouse model in which the Anxa5 expression in hard tissue is indicated by lacZ activity. We found that lacZ activity could be detected throughout the periodontal ligament of adult mice when fixed in 100% acetone, whereas it was not detected in the periodontal ligament around the root apex fixed in glutaraldehyde and paraformaldehyde. This staining could not be detected in wild-type mice. Acetone maintains the lacZ activity within 48 h of fixation at both 4°C and at room temperature. In conclusion, acetone is the optimal fixative to improve permeability for staining of lacZ activity in large volumes of adult hard tissues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-847
Number of pages7
JournalHistochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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