Diaminobenzidine (DAB), commonly used in immunocytochemistry as the substrate for peroxidase, has a low electron density. DAB has a known affinity for the salts of some metals and therefore an examination of the ability of six metal compounds (including osmium tetroxide) to increase the electron density associated with DAB deposits has been undertaken. Ultra-thin sections of unosmicated rat pituitary gland, embedded in L.R. White resin, were immunostained by a hapten sandwich immunoperoxidase method, using antibodies to ACTH and TSH. The unintensified electron density of the DAB polymer reaction product on the specific endocrine granules was compared with the electron density resulting from the use of each of the six metal compounds. Lead and silver nitrate gave unsatisfactory results, while phosphotungstic acid and uranyl acetate produced a limited increase in specific electron density under the conditions used. Gold chloride was found to give the highest electron density to the specific endocrine granules, followed closely by osmium tetroxide. Background staining was greater when osmium was used. We conclude that several metal compounds may be used to intensify the electron density of DAB, but of the ones tested, gold chloride, which is safer, more stable, and cheaper than osmium tetroxide, was clearly the best. This approach not only increases the electron density of the DAB reaction product, but allows of the possibility of quantitation using energy dispersive X-ray analysis.
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