TO-PRO-3 is an optimal fluorescent dye for nuclear counterstaining in dual-colour FISH on paraffin sections

Histochem Cell Biol. 2001 Apr;115(4):293-9. doi: 10.1007/s004180100254.


Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) is an extensive but reliable tool for assessing the hybridisation signals in fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH). Most CLSMs are equipped with an argon-laser and a helium/neon-laser illumination system with excitation wavelengths of 488, 543 and 633 nm. A protocol for an optimal nuclear counterstaining in combination with dual-colour FISH for these laser illumination systems has not been established so far. Here, we determined the suitability of eleven dimeric and monomeric cyanine nucleic acid stains on paraffin sections of breast carcinoma specimens in combination with dual-colour FISH (Her-2/neu and centromere 17) for CLSM application. Strong staining of cell nuclei was observed for TO-PRO-3 and YO-PRO-3, YOYO-1 and propidium iodide (PI), but only TO-PRO-3 showed specific staining of nuclei without any staining of the cytoplasm. A specific emission in exclusively one distinct fluorescence channel was shown for TO-PRO-3 (633 nm excitation) as well as YOYO-1, BO-PRO-1 and Sytox Green (488 nm excitation), evaluated by a CLSM and confirmed by 3-D fluorescence spectra. High stability of fluorescence intensity was shown for the far-red dyes TO-PRO-3, YO-PRO-3, YOYO-3 and Syto-59 as well as YOYO-1 and PI. Only TO-PRO-3 was due to its high specificity and stability suitable for detection of an amplification of the Her-2/neu gene by dual-colour FISH and CLSM evaluation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carbocyanines / analysis*
  • Carbocyanines / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology*
  • Drug Stability
  • Fluorescent Dyes / analysis*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Genes, erbB-2 / genetics
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microtomy / methods
  • Nucleic Acids / analysis
  • Nucleic Acids / chemistry
  • Nucleic Acids / genetics
  • Paraffin Embedding / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling / methods


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Nucleic Acids
  • TO-PRO-3