Synergistic tissue counterstaining and image segmentation techniques for accurate, quantitative immunohistochemistry

J Histochem Cytochem. 2008 Oct;56(10):873-80. doi: 10.1369/jhc.2008.950345. Epub 2008 Jun 23.


Quantitative analysis of digitized IHC-stained tissue sections is increasingly used in research studies and clinical practice. Accurate quantification of IHC staining, however, is often complicated by conventional tissue counterstains caused by the color convolution of the IHC chromogen and the counterstain. To overcome this issue, we implemented a new counterstain, Acid Blue 129, which provides homogeneous tissue background staining. Furthermore, we combined this counterstaining technique with a simple, robust, fully automated image segmentation algorithm, which takes advantage of the high degree of color separation between the 3-amino-9-ethyl-carbazole (AEC) chromogen and the Acid Blue 129 counterstain. Rigorous validation of the automated technique against manual segmentation data, using Ki-67 IHC sections from rat C6 glioma and beta-amyloid IHC sections from transgenic mice with amyloid precursor protein (APP) mutations, has shown the automated method to produce highly accurate results compared with ground truth estimates based on the manually segmented images. The synergistic combination of the novel tissue counterstaining and image segmentation techniques described in this study will allow for accurate, reproducible, and efficient quantitative IHC studies for a wide range of antibodies and tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anthraquinones*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carbazoles*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Coloring Agents*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Rats
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*
  • Sulfonic Acids*


  • 1-amino-4-(2,4,6-trimethylanilino)anthraquinone-2-sulfonate
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Anthraquinones
  • Carbazoles
  • Coloring Agents
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Sulfonic Acids
  • 3-amino-9-ethylcarbazole