Selective Axonal Argentaffin Staining in Rat Central Nervous System after Protein Mercuration
AbstractThe mercury-silver (Hg-Ag) argentaffin technique, known to stain specifically proteins in the lateral components of triads/diads in striated muscle cells, was applied to the central nervous system of adult rats. Following fixation in glutaraldehyde, axons in white and gray matter were selectively stained, but not perikarya or their proximal axon and dendrites. Neural tissues were postfixed 24 hr in 5% (w/v) mercuric acetate in 2% (v/v) acetic acid in distilled water, stained for 12–24 hr in darkness at 37–43 C with ammoniacal silver nitrate solution, freshly prepared by adding concentrated ammonia to 60% (w/v) silver nitrate solution until a small amount of silver oxide precipitate remained undissolved. Samples were then washed with freshly prepared 5% (w/v) sodium sulfite and distilled water. All steps were carried out using dark-colored glass flasks. Samples were dehydrated with ethanol and embedded in Paraplast or Poly Bed. Electron microscopy showed the silver-reducing protein inside the axons. Methylation abolished Hg-Ag axonal reactivity indicating that carboxyl groups were necessary for silver staining. Proteins with solubility properties characteristic of neurofilament proteins were involved in Hg-Ag staining. In the cerebellum the plexus of parallel fibers in the molecular layer were not stained, while basket cell axonal processes reacted intensely. The method appears to distinguish neuronal protein variants related to cytotypic differences in cytoskeletal neurofilaments.