Effects of tannic acid on antigenicity and membrane contrast in ultrastructural immunocytochemistry

M. A. Berryman, W. R. Porter, R. D. Rodewald, A. L. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have modified our previous method for immunogold staining of unosmicated, plastic-embedded tissue by addition of tannic acid as a post- fixative to increase membrane contrast. Overall cell ultrastructure and organelle membranes, in particular, appeared well preserved after this treatment. We evaluated quantitatively the effect of tannic acid on the antigenicity of several membrane proteins in rat liver and intestine. For all antigens tested, significant antigenicity was retained on both intracellular and plasma membranes. However, the level of antigenicity decreased with increased concentrations of tannic acid. This effect was most apparent on the apical and basolateral membranes of hepatocytes and on the apical membrane of enterocytes, surfaces that had been in direct contact with the tannic acid fixative. The results indicate that when low concentrations of tannic acid are employed, this method yields greatly enhanced membrane contrast while preserving sufficient antigenicity to facilitate the ultrastructural localization of many membrane and other antigens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-857
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Asialoglycoprotein receptor
  • Dipeptidyl peptidase IV
  • Electron microscopy
  • Endocytosis
  • Fc receptor
  • Immunogold cytochemistry
  • LR Gold
  • Rat intestine
  • Rat liver
  • Tannic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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