p53 immunolabeling in archival paraffin-embedded tissues: optimal protocol based on microwave heating for eight antibodies on lung carcinomas

Mod Pathol. 1994 Oct;7(8):853-9.


The prognostic value of p53 gene mutations is dealt with by several recent reports. However, retrospective assessment of p53 tumor status on archived samples has been prevented by p53 epitope alteration during routine fixation and embedding procedures. This study aimed at establishing a reproducible low-cost protocol to retrieve not only N-terminal, but also midregion and C-terminal, epitopes, with special attention to possible artifacts induced by epitope retrieval procedures. Using microwave heating, we compared the epitope retrieval efficiency of five solutions with eight commercial antibodies on 21 lung carcinomas for which frozen tissue and samples fixed with formalin and Bouin's liquid were available. All eight epitopes were retrieved, citrate buffer proving efficient for seven. PAb 240 epitope was restored by target unmasking fluid only. No false positivity was observed. Fixation-induced loss of p53 immunoreactivity was minimal for formalin (two of 10 tumors for one antibody each), more significant for Bouin (six of 10 tumors for one to five antibodies). On the other hand, staining intensity was maintained or even improved, and nonspecific staining reduced, through fixation. We conclude that p53 stabilization can be detected on routinely processed archival tumor samples with a reliability similar to that of frozen tissue by means of a microwave-based procedure and a panel of at least three antibodies, with epitopes on the N-terminal, C-terminal, and midpart of the molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Epitopes / analysis*
  • Freezing
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Microwaves*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Epitopes
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53