A Primer for Research Scientists on Assessing Mouse Gross and Histopathology Images in the Biomedical Literature

Curr Protoc. 2023 Sep;3(9):e891. doi: 10.1002/cpz1.891.


Advances in genomic technologies have enabled the development of abundant mouse models of human disease, requiring accurate phenotyping to elucidate the consequences of genetic manipulation. Anatomic pathology, an important component of the mouse phenotyping pipeline, is ideally performed by human or veterinary pathologists; however, due to insufficient numbers of pathologists qualified to assess these mouse models morphologically, research scientists may perform "do-it-yourself" pathology, resulting in diagnostic error. In the biomedical literature, pathology data is commonly presented as images of tissue sections, stained with either hematoxylin and eosin or antibodies via immunohistochemistry, accompanied by a figure legend. Data presented in such images and figure legends may contain inaccuracies. Furthermore, there is limited guidance for non-pathologist research scientists concerning the elements required in an ideal pathology image and figure legend in a research publication. In this overview, the components of an ideal pathology image and figure legend are outlined and comprise image quality, image composition, and image interpretation. Background knowledge is important for producing accurate pathology images and critically assessing these images in the literature. This foundational knowledge includes understanding relevant human and mouse anatomy and histology and, for cancer researchers, an understanding of human and mouse tumor classification and morphology, mouse stain background lesions, and tissue processing artifacts. Accurate interpretation of immunohistochemistry is also vitally important and is detailed with emphasis on the requirement for tissue controls and the distribution, intensity, and intracellular location of staining. Common pitfalls in immunohistochemistry interpretation are outlined, and a checklist of questions is provided by which any pathology image may be critically examined. Collaboration with pathologist colleagues is encouraged. This overview aims to equip researchers to critically assess the quality and accuracy of pathology images in the literature to improve the reliability and reproducibility of published pathology data. © 2023 The Authors. Current Protocols published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

Keywords: immunohistochemistry; interpretation; mouse model; pathology image; tumor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Artifacts
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Mice
  • Pathologists
  • Physicians*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Antibodies
  • Hyaluronic Acid