All tags IHC Counterstains and special stains for immunohistochemistry

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Counterstains and special stains for immunohistochemistry

​​Histology stains, fluorescent stains and special stains are used to stain specific cell and tissue structures, and also to stain microorganisms to help identify the location of primary antibody staining.

​​Find information below about

​​This page is part of our IHC application guide: download it or read it online.

​​Tis page is part of our IHC application guide: download it or read it online.
Iron stain kit

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Example of the use of special stains and counterstains. Prussian blue iron stain kit staining iron (blue) in liver tissue. Nuclei and background were counterstained with nuclear fast red.

​​Chromogenic counterstains

Chromogenic counterstains are used when the primary antibody is visualized using HRP or alkaline phospatase combined with DAB, AEC, or similar enzyme substrates. The traditional combination is HRP/DAB with hematoxylin to stain nuclei. Eosin, for cytoplasmic staining, is often used in combination with hematoyxolin.   

Dye
TargetColor
Mayers HematoxylinNucleiBlue to violet

Nuclear fast red(Kernechtrot)

Nucleic acidsRed
Methyl greenNucleic acidsGreen


Fluorescent counterstains

Fluorescent counterstains are used when the primary antibody staining is visualized with a fluorescent dye either directly conjugated to the primary antibody, or to a secondary antibody. Avoid using a counterstain with an overlapping emission spectra to the dye used for  primary antibody visualization.

DAPI is traditionally the most popular fluorescent nuclear counterstain.

DyeTargetColorProduct
DRAQ5™
Nucleic acidsRedab108410

DRAQ7™
Nucleic acids
Red

ab109202
Nuclear yellow (Hoechst S769121)Nucleic acidsYellow/Blue*ab138903
Nuclear Green DCS1Nucleic acidsGreenab138905
Hoechst stainNucleic acidsBlue-
4', 6-diamino-2-pheylindole (DAPI)Nucleic acidsBlue-
Propidium iodideNucleic acidsRedab14083

*Emission is blue/violet under acidic conditions and yellow under neutral pH conditions


Special stains

Special stains are used to stain certain cell types, microorganisms, and specific proteins, carbohydrates and metabolites found in the tissue matrix and within cells. 

Whilst simple to use once established, special stains are often time consuming to set up and optimize. Optimized special stain kits provide a convenient alternative to setting up a stain yourself, and they are often faster to use than the traditional staining methods.


Special stain

Description

Product

Acid Fast Bacteria (AFB) Stain

Stains microoganisms - specifically acid-fast bacteria and Tubercle bacilli

ab150660

Alcian Blue (pH 1.0) Stain

Stains mucins - acidic mucosubstances stained blue, nuclei pink to red and cytoplasm pale pink (for visualization of strongly sulfated mucosubstances)

ab150661

Alcian Blue (pH 2.5) Stain

Stains mucins - acidic mucosubstances stained blue, nuclei pink to red and cytoplasm pale pink

ab150662

Alizarin Red Stain

Stains calcium - may not-specifically stain magnesium, manganese, barium, strontium or iron depending on concentration

-

Amyloid Stain (Congo Red)

Stains amyloid deposits

ab150663

Colloidal Iron Stain

Stains mucins

ab150664

Combined Eosionphil-Mast Cell Stain

Stains mucins - simultaneously visualize eosinophils and mast cells

ab150665

Copper Stain

Staining copper deposits

ab150666

Elastic Stain (Modified Verhoff's)

Stains connective tissue (eg elastin)

ab150667

Fite's Stain

Stains microorganisms (eg Mycobacterium leprae)

ab150668

Fontana-Masson Stain

Stains melanin and argetaffin granules black

ab150669

Giemsa Stain (May-Grunwald)

Hematologic stain for visualizing cells in hematopoietic tissues and some microorganisms

ab150670

Hydroxystilbamidine   (also known as Fluoro-Gold™)

Fluoresent label that can be used as a retrograde enhancer to label neurons (Ex/Em: 385/536 nm)

ab138870

Modified Gomori Methenamine-Silver (GMS) Nitrate Stain

Stains fungi, basement membranes and some opportunistic organisms (eg Pneumocystis carinii)

ab150671

Golgi Cox Stain

Stains neuronal dendrites and dendritic spines

-

Gram Stain

Stains microorganisms - differentiates between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria

ab150672

H. pylori Rapid Stain

Stains Helicobacter pylori

ab150673

Prussian Blue Iron Stain

Stains iron - highly sensitive stain, stains ferric ions in tissue bright blue

ab150674

Luxol Fast Blue Stain

Stains myelinated axons in brain and spinal cord tissue blue, neurons violet and myelin and phospholipids blue/green

ab150675

Methyl Green Pyronin (pH 4.8) Stain

Stains DNA, RNA and mast cell granules

ab150676

Mucicarmine Stain

Stains mucin

ab150677

Nissl Stain

Stains Nissl body in cytoplasm of neurons

-

Oil Red O Stain

Stains lipids and fat

ab150678

Papanicolaou (PAP) Red Stain

Cytology stain - allows differentiation of a variety of cell types in bodily secretions such as gynecological smears

ab150679

Periodic Acid Schiff (PAS) Stain

Stains mucin - stains glycogen, mucin and fungi magenta and nuclei black/blue

ab150680

Picro Sirius Red Stain

Stains connective tissue - specifically collagen

ab150681

Pneumocystis Stain

Stains Pneumoscystis carinii

ab150682

Phosphotungstic Acid Hematoxylin (PTAH) Stain

Staining connective tissue - specifically collagen, striate muscle and glial fibers

ab150683

Reticulum Stain

Stains reticular fibers in connective tissue

ab150684

Safranin O Stain

Stains mucin, cartilage and mast cell granules

-

Steiner Stain

Stains fungi, H.pylori, L. pneumophila and spirochete-infected tissue

ab150685

Sudan Black

Stains lipids and fat blue/black and nuclei red

-

Toluidine Blue Stain

Stains nucleic acids blue and polysaccharides purple.  Mast cells are stained dark blue/red purple

-

Trichome Stain (Modified Masson's)

Stains connective tissue

ab150686

Calcium Stain (Modified Von Kossa)

Stains calcium grey to black in histology sections

ab150687

Warthin-Starry Stain

Stains spirochetes, H. pylori, L. pneumophila and cat scratch fever bacteria

ab150688

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