IBEX: an iterative immunolabeling and chemical bleaching method for high-content imaging of diverse tissues

Nat Protoc. 2022 Feb;17(2):378-401. doi: 10.1038/s41596-021-00644-9. Epub 2022 Jan 12.


High-content imaging is needed to catalog the variety of cellular phenotypes and multicellular ecosystems present in metazoan tissues. We recently developed iterative bleaching extends multiplexity (IBEX), an iterative immunolabeling and chemical bleaching method that enables multiplexed imaging (>65 parameters) in diverse tissues, including human organs relevant for international consortia efforts. IBEX is compatible with >250 commercially available antibodies and 16 unique fluorophores, and can be easily adopted to different imaging platforms using slides and nonproprietary imaging chambers. The overall protocol consists of iterative cycles of antibody labeling, imaging and chemical bleaching that can be completed at relatively low cost in 2-5 d by biologists with basic laboratory skills. To support widespread adoption, we provide extensive details on tissue processing, curated lists of validated antibodies and tissue-specific panels for multiplex imaging. Furthermore, instructions are included on how to automate the method using competitively priced instruments and reagents. Finally, we present a software solution for image alignment that can be executed by individuals without programming experience using open-source software and freeware. In summary, IBEX is a noncommercial method that can be readily implemented by academic laboratories and scaled to achieve high-content mapping of diverse tissues in support of a Human Reference Atlas or other such applications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*