Improved histological fixation of gelatinous marine invertebrates

Front Zool. 2021 Jun 12;18(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12983-021-00414-z.


Background: Gelatinous zooplankton can be difficult to preserve morphologically due to unique physical properties of their cellular and acellular components. The relatively large volume of mesoglea leads to distortion of the delicate morphology and poor sample integrity in specimens prepared with standard aldehyde or alcohol fixation techniques. Similar challenges have made it difficult to extend standard laboratory methods such as in situ hybridization to larger juvenile ctenophores, hampering studies of late development.

Results: We have found that a household water repellant glass treatment product commonly used in laboratories, Rain-X®, alone or in combination with standard aldehyde fixatives, greatly improves morphological preservation of such delicate samples. We present detailed methods for preservation of ctenophores of diverse sizes compatible with long-term storage or detection and localization of target molecules such as with immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization and show that this fixation might be broadly useful for preservation of other delicate marine specimens.

Conclusion: This new method will enable superior preservation of morphology in gelatinous specimens for a variety of downstream goals. Extending this method may improve the morphological fidelity and durability of museum and laboratory specimens for other delicate sample types.

Keywords: Ctenophore; Fixation; Immunohistochemistry; In situ hybridization; Mnemiopsis leidyi; Preservation of zooplankton.