Histomorphological and Molecular Assessments of the Fixation Times Comparing Formalin and Ethanol-Based Fixatives

Joon Yong Chung, Joon Seon Song, Kris Ylaya, John D. Sears, Lauren Choi, Hanbyoul Cho, Avi Z. Rosenberg, Stephen M. Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The lack of standardization of tissue handling and processing hinders the development and validation of new biomarkers in research and clinical settings. We compared the histomorphology and the quality and quantity of biomolecules in paraffin-embedded mouse tissues, followed by fixation with neutral buffered formalin (NBF), 70% ethanol, and buffered ethanol (BE70) fixative. The quality of the histomorphology and immunohistochemistry in BE70 was relatively time-independent, whereas those in NBF rapidly decreased after 1 week of fixation. Protein recovered from tissue fixed in 70% ethanol and BE70 was compatible with Western blot and protein array using AKT and GAPDH antibodies, regardless of the fixation time. In addition, the quality and quantity of RNA extracted from tissue in ethanol-based fixative showed minimal changes from 4 hr to 6 months, whereas NBF had a dramatic detrimental change in RNA quality after 1 week of fixation. Furthermore, ethanol-based fixative offers a superior DNA template for PCR amplification–based molecular assays than NBF. In conclusion, coagulative, ethanol-based fixatives show a broader time spectrum than the aldehyde crosslinking fixative NBF in their histomorphological features and the quantity and quality of the biomolecules from paraffin-embedded tissue, and they may facilitate the use of fixative-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues in research and clinical laboratories, avoiding overfixation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-135
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • RNA integrity
  • alcohol
  • fixation
  • formaldehyde
  • histology
  • immunohistochemistry
  • protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


Dive into the research topics of 'Histomorphological and Molecular Assessments of the Fixation Times Comparing Formalin and Ethanol-Based Fixatives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this