A manual multiplex immunofluorescence method for investigating neurodegenerative diseases

J Neurosci Methods. 2020 Jun 1:339:108708. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2020.108708. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Background: Neurodegenerative diseases feature stereotypical deposits of protein aggregates that selectively accumulate in vulnerable cells. The ability to simultaneously localize multiple targets in situ is critical to facilitate discovery and validation of pathogenic molecular pathways. Immunostaining methods enable in situ detection of specific targets. Effective stripping of antibodies, allowing successive rounds of staining while maintaining tissue adhesion and antigen integrity, is the main roadblock for enabling multiplex immunostaining in standard labs. Furthermore, stripping techniques require antibody-specific optimization, validation, and quality control steps.

New method: Aiming to create protocols for multiplex localization of neurodegenerative-related processes, without the need for specialized equipment, we evaluated several antibody stripping techniques. We also recommend quality control steps to validate stripping efficacy and ameliorate concerns of cross-reactivity and false positives based on extensive testing.

Results: A protocol using β-mercaptoethanol and SDS consistently enables reliable antibody stripping across multiple rounds of staining and minimizes the odds of cross-reactivity while preserving tissue adhesion and antigen integrity in human postmortem tissue.

Comparison with existing methods: Our proposed method is optimal for standard lab settings and shows consistent efficacy despite the intricacies of suboptimal human postmortem tissue and the need to strip markers bound to highly aggregated proteins. Additionally, it incorporates quality control steps to validate antibody stripping.

Conclusions: Multiplex immunofluorescence methods for studying neurodegenerative diseases in human postmortem tissue are feasible even in standard laboratories. Nevertheless, evaluation of stripping parameters during optimization and validation phases of experiments is prudent.

Keywords: Immunofluorescence; Immunohistochemistry; Multiplex histology; Neuropathology; Postmortem human brain tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies
  • Antigens
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens