Tissue microarrays: applications in neuropathology research, diagnosis, and education

Brain Pathol. 2002 Jan;12(1):95-107. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.2002.tb00426.x.


Tissue microarrays (TMAs) are composite paraffin blocks constructed by extracting cylindrical tissue core "biopsies" from different paraffin donor blocks and re-embedding these into a single recipient (microarray) block at defined array coordinates. Using this technique, up to 1000 or more tissue samples can be composited into a single paraffin block. Tissue microarrays permit high-volume simultaneous analysis of molecular targets at the DNA, mRNA, and protein levels under identical, standardized conditions on a single glass slide, and also provide maximal preservation and utilization of limited and irreplaceable archival tissue samples. This versatile technique facilitates retrospective and prospective human tissue studies, animal tissue studies, and cell line cytospin cell block studies. In this review, we present the technical aspects of TMA construction and sectioning, validation aspects of the technique, TMA advantages and limitations, and a sampling of the broad range of TMA uses in modern neuropathologic clinical diagnosis, research, and education. A specific illustration of the most widely employed and increasingly important TMA application is also presented: confirmation via TMA-based immunohistochemistry of the differential expression of a marker (IGFBP2) initially identified by gene expression profiling to be overexpressed in glioblastoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Histocytochemistry / instrumentation
  • Histocytochemistry / methods
  • Humans
  • Microtomy / instrumentation
  • Microtomy / methods*
  • Paraffin Embedding / instrumentation
  • Paraffin Embedding / methods*
  • Staining and Labeling / instrumentation
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor