Effect of fixatives and tissue processing on the content and integrity of nucleic acids

Am J Pathol. 2002 Dec;161(6):1961-71. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64472-0.


Clinical and molecular medicines are undergoing a revolution based on the accelerated advances in biotechnology such as DNA microarrays and proteomics. Answers to fundamental questions such as how does the DNA sequence differ between individuals and what makes one individual more prone for a certain disease are eagerly being sought in this postgenomic era. Several government and nonprofit organizations provide the researchers access to human tissues for molecular studies. The tissues procured by the different organizations may differ with respect to fixation and processing parameters that may affect significantly the molecular profile of the tissues. It is imperative that a prospective investigator be aware of the potential contributing factors before designing a project. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the methods of human tissue acquisition, fixation, and preservation. In addition, the parameters of procurement and fixation that affect the quality of the tissues at the molecular level are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fixatives / chemistry*
  • Formaldehyde / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Microwaves
  • Nucleic Acids / chemistry*
  • Nucleic Acids / metabolism
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Temperature
  • Tissue Fixation / methods*


  • Fixatives
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Solvents
  • Formaldehyde