Reversible embedment cytochemistry (REC): a versatile method for the ultrastructural analysis and affinity labeling of tissue sections. Academic Article uri icon


  • Reversible embedment cytochemistry (REC) is a new method for revealing cellular ultrastructure and for improving access of intracellular targets to macromolecular affinity labels. Fully polymerized polymethylmethacrylate was dissolved in dichloromethane and infiltrated into fixed tissue-culture cells and tissues. After evaporation of the solvent, samples were left in hard plastic. Samples were thus embedded without exposure to chemical polymerization reactions that might damage tissue ultrastructure or antigenicity. Glass or diamond knives fitted with water troughs were used to cut sections 30-1000 nm thick. Since polymethylmethacrylate is composed of linear polymers that are not covalently crosslinked, the plastic was easily extracted from the sections by immersion in solvent. Subsequently, various preparative methods, including negative staining, critical point-drying, and platinum-carbon rotary shadowing, were used to provide detailed images of well-preserved cell structure for conventional and high-voltage transmission electron microscopy. Fluorescein-conjugated affinity labels were used to obtain subcellular distributions of target molecules in semi-thick sections of cultured cells and tissues for light microscopy. Colloidal gold-labeled antibodies were used to localize microtubules in sections of cultured cells by electron microscopy. REC is a versatile method that should find wide application in many studies of cellular function.

publication date

  • February 1986