Antigen retrieval technique utilizing citrate buffer or urea solution for immunohistochemical demonstration of androgen receptor in formalin-fixed paraffin sections

J Histochem Cytochem. 1993 Nov;41(11):1599-604. doi: 10.1177/41.11.7691930.


We developed a staining protocol for demonstration of androgen receptor (AR) in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections. The method is based on the antigen retrieval microwave (MW) heating technique. Results are compared with different types of enzyme digestion pre-treatments. The strongest immunostaining signal and clearest background were obtained by MW heating of dewaxed paraffin sections in 5% urea or citrate buffer solution (pH 6); pure distilled water gave less consistent results. Enzymatic digestion with pepsin (0.05% in 2 N HCl) for 30 min at room temperature, or trypsin followed by pronase, or pronase digestion alone, also produced enhanced staining of AR in some cases, but there was more nonspecific background, and specific reactivity was less intense. The antigen retrieval MW method can be used to demonstrate AR epitope in prostate tissue after fixation in formalin for as long as 7 days. AR immunolocalization was also compared in frozen and paraffin sections processed from the same specimen of prostate carcinoma tissue and was found to be qualitatively and quantitatively similar. This study also provided new information concerning the basic principles of the antigen retrieval MW method that may be helpful in further development of this technique.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / isolation & purification
  • Buffers
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Citrates
  • Citric Acid
  • Frozen Sections
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques*
  • Male
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Androgen / analysis*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tissue Fixation
  • Urea


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Buffers
  • Citrates
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Citric Acid
  • Urea