Osmium ferricyanide fixation improves microfilament preservation and membrane visualization in a variety of animal cell types

J Ultrastruct Res. 1984 Feb;86(2):107-18. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5320(84)80051-9.


Using a fixation formula which includes adding potassium ferricyanide (K3Fe(CN)6) to the osmium step and an en bloc aqueous uranyl acetate step before dehydration we have looked at cells from mammals, birds, amphibia, algae, and higher plants and we have collaborated in fixing cells of teleost fish. In every cell type except the algae and higher plants the final EM image was improved by the OsFeCN-uranium method. The most common improvement was an increase in the membrane contrast but more significantly, some cells show improved preservation of microfilaments. We conclude that the OsFeCN adds contrast to all classes of membrane and does not destroy microfilaments to the extent that osmium alone does. Adding uranyl acetate to the cells may protect delicate filamentous structures from collapse during dehydration and embedding. We have preliminary evidence in PtK1 cells that addition of tannic acid after OsFeCN may function in a similar manner. This method is recommended for any animal cell type where improved visualization of membranes and filaments is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cytoskeleton*
  • Dipodomys
  • Female
  • Ferricyanides*
  • Fishes
  • Fixatives*
  • Tissue Preservation / methods*
  • Xenopus


  • Ferricyanides
  • Fixatives
  • osmium ferricyanide