A modified differential stain for cartilage and bone in whole mount preparations of mammalian fetuses and small vertebrates

Stain Technol. 1983 May;58(3):131-4. doi: 10.3109/10520298309066773.


Fixation in formol-acetic-alcohol as a prelude to the staining of whole mount vertebrate skeletons with alcian blue and alizarin red S has greatly facilitated the enzyme clearing step of the method outlined by Dingerkus and Uhler. The modified method has been tested on fetal and neonatal mice, and on a variety of vertebrates including bony fish, reptiles, amphibia and birds, and shown to be rapid, reproducible and permanent. The method is not so rapid as that reported by Kimmel and Trammell but is superior at least in certain circumstances. In the present study, optimal results were obtained by fixing in formol-acetic-alcohol for 40 minutes, staining cartilage with alcian blue 8GX, then clearing with trypsin. The time taken to complete the latter step was reduced significantly by incubation at 37 C. The next step was to stain bone using alizarin red S in a weak solution of potassium hydroxide, followed by clearing in a potassium hydroxide-glycerol series.

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians
  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Cartilage / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Fetus / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes
  • Pregnancy
  • Reptiles
  • Staining and Labeling*