Staining of proteoglycans in mouse lung alveoli. I. Ultrastructural localization of anionic sites

Histochem J. 1984 Jun;16(6):657-69. doi: 10.1007/BF01003393.


In order to contrast anionic sites in mouse lung alveoli, two staining procedures were applied: (a) staining with Ruthenium Red and Alcian Blue and (b) staining with Cuprolinic Blue in a critical electrolyte concentration method. The Ruthenium Red-Alcian Blue staining procedure revealed electron-dense granules in the alveolar basement membrane. The granules were closely associated with the epithelial cell membrane and continued to stain even when the procedure was carried out at a low pH, indicating the presence of sulphate groups in the granules. After staining with Cuprolinic Blue, electron-dense filaments, also closely associated with the cell membrane, became visible in the basement membrane of type I epithelial cells. Their length depended on the MgCl2 concentration used during staining. At 0.4 M MgCl2, the length was mostly within the range 100-180 nm. Using a modified Cuprolinic Blue method, the appearance of the filaments closely resembled that of spread proteoglycan monomers with their side-chains condensed. The basement membrane of type II epithelial cells also contained filaments positive towards Cuprolinic Blue; their length, however, was smaller in comparison with those of type I epithelial cells. The filaments lay in one plane and provided the whole alveolus with an almost continuous sheet of anionic sites. Cuprolinic Blue staining also revealed filaments in the basement membrane of the capillary endothelial cells. Furthermore, Cuprolinic Blue-positive filaments (average length about 40 nm) became apparent in close contact with collagen fibrils and separated from each other according to the main banding period of the collagen fibrils (about 60 nm), indicating a specific ultrastructural interaction between these two components. Filaments connecting collagen fibrils with each other were also detected.

MeSH terms

  • Alcian Blue
  • Animals
  • Anions
  • Basement Membrane / metabolism
  • Indoles
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Organometallic Compounds*
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / ultrastructure
  • Ruthenium Red
  • Staining and Labeling*


  • Anions
  • Indoles
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Proteoglycans
  • Ruthenium Red
  • copper phthalocyanine
  • Alcian Blue