Comparative analysis of fixation and embedding techniques for optimized histological preparation of zebrafish

Jean E. Copper, Lynn R. Budgeon, Christina A. Foutz, Damian B. van Rossum, Daniel J. Vanselow, Margaret J. Hubley, Darin P. Clark, David T. Mandrell, Keith C. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In recognition of the importance of zebrafish as a model organism for studying human disease, we have created zebrafish content for a web-based reference atlas of microanatomy for comparing histology and histopathology between model systems and with humans ( Fixation, decalcification, embedding, and sectioning of zebrafish were optimized to maximize section quality. A comparison of protocols involving six fixatives showed that 10% Neutral Buffered Formalin at 21 °C for 24 h yielded excellent results. Sectioning of juveniles and adults requires bone decalcification; EDTA at 0.35 M produced effective decalcification in 21-day-old juveniles through adults (≥~3 Months). To improve section plane consistency in sets of larvae, we have developed new array casting molds based on the outside contours of larvae derived from 3D microCT images. Tissue discontinuity in sections, a common barrier to creating quality sections of zebrafish, was minimized by processing and embedding the formalin-fixed zebrafish tissues in plasticized forms of paraffin wax, and by periodic hydration of the block surface in ice water between sets of sections. Optimal H&E (Hematoxylin and Eosin) staining was achieved through refinement of standard protocols. High quality slide scans produced from glass histology slides were digitally processed to maximize image quality, and experimental replicates posted as full slides as part of this publication. Modifications to tissue processing are still needed to eliminate the need for block surface hydration. The further addition of slide collections from other model systems and 3D tools for visualizing tissue architecture would greatly increase the utility of the digital atlas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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