Enzyme clearing of alcian blue stained whole small vertebrates for demonstration of cartilage

Stain Technol. 1977 Jul;52(4):229-32. doi: 10.3109/10520297709116780.


Preparation of small vertebrates cleared after alcian blue staining of cartilage is facilitated by trypsin digestion. Specimens are fixed in formation, washed, skinned, and eviscerated. After staining in a solution of alcian blue in acetic acid-alcohol for 24-48 hours, they are transferred to water through graded alcohols. Excess alcian blue is removed over a period of up to three weeks by changes every 2-3 days of 1% trypsin in approximately one-third-saturated sodium borate. Bony tissues may be stained after this in a solution of alizarin red S in 0.5% KOH. Specimens are bleached if necessary and dehydrated through graded KOH-glycerine mixtures for storage in glycerine. Since alcohol treatment in addition to formalin fixation does not affect results with this method, it should be useful to researchers who want to study the cartilage or cartilaginous skeletons in museum specimens, which are routinely fixed in formalin and stored in alcohol.

MeSH terms

  • Alcian Blue
  • Animals
  • Anura
  • Cartilage / analysis*
  • Fishes
  • Staining and Labeling*
  • Trypsin*
  • Turtles


  • Trypsin
  • Alcian Blue