Tyramide signal amplification enhances the detectable distribution of connexin-43 positive gap junctions across the ventricular wall of the rabbit heart

Arch Histol Cytol. 2003 Oct;66(4):359-65. doi: 10.1679/aohc.66.359.


Previous mapping studies examinig the distribution and pattern of staining for connexin-43 expression (the major ventricular gap junction protein) across the ventricular wall have yielded variable findings. The aim of this study was to determine if variations in the distribution of connexin-43 were due to histochemical detection problems, i.e. cross-linking of antigenic sites as a consequence of aldehyde fixation and/or due to low levels of protein expression within the epicardial or endocardial regions of the heart. Immunoperoxidase staining of connexin-43 using the ABC method was carried out in crosssections of rabbit hearts at the level of the papillary muscle. The following treatments were examined: the antibody (Ab) only, Ab with 1/2 Tyramide Signal Amplification (TSA) or full TSA; antibody with microwave antigen retrieval (AR); Ab + 1/2 TSA + AR and finally Ab + TSA + AR. Under light microscopy and using computerized image analysis the percentages of ventricular cross-sectional transmural staining for the different treatment groups were calculated: Ab amounted to only 55%; Ab + 1/2 TSA 63%; Ab + TSA 78%; Ab + AR 72%; Ab + AR + 1/2 TSA 72% and Ab + AR + TSA 88%. The percentages of transumural connexin-43 staining in both TSA + Ab and Ab + TSA + AR groups when compared to Ab only were significantly greater p < 0.01. The antigenic cross-linking due to aldehyde fixation and low levels expression of connexin-43 are contributing factors that influence the immunohistochemical detection of connexin-43 in the mammalian heart. Methodological enhancement for the detection of connexin-43 in this study was derived primarily from amplification of low background levels of connexin-43 being expressed using the TSA protocol. This is supported by the significant differences encountered when TSA was utilized in the protocol and compared with antibody treatment only.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / chemistry
  • Aorta / pathology
  • Connexin 43 / biosynthesis*
  • Gap Junctions*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Papillary Muscles / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Tyramine / pharmacology*


  • Antigens
  • Connexin 43
  • Tyramine