A novel use for a carbodiimide compound for the fixation of fluorescent and non-fluorescent calcium indicators in situ following physiological experiments

Cell Calcium. 1997 Mar;21(3):175-83. doi: 10.1016/s0143-4160(97)90042-7.


The inability to determine the precise intracellular location of non-fluorescent organic calcium chelators such as BAPTA is a persistent problem which has precluded much detailed analysis of the chelators' spatial or temporal dynamics in live cells. Similarly, following physiological experiments with fluorescent indicators like Fura-2, it has often been desirable to maintain the dye within the cell for later analysis by additional histological techniques. Based on chemical considerations, and its prior use in tissue fixation, we examined the water soluble reagent 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide (EDC) as a potential fixative for diverse calcium chelators. The utility of EDC, but not other common fixatives, was confirmed through electrophysiological means, through a novel ELISA, which exploits anti-BAPTA antibodies to assess the extent and kinetics of fixation; by autoradiography of neurons loaded with [14C]-BAPTA, and by immunocytochemistry and imaging of intracellular BAPTA or Calcium Green in neurons. At concentrations > 0.1 mg/ml, EDC caused virtually instantaneous, irreversible, fixation of > 95% of BAPTA free acid. Fixation of intracellular BAPTA was confirmed in hippocampal brain slices loaded with BAPTA/AM ester, and showed biphasic kinetics consistent with rapid loading and subsequent extrusion of the chelator. Immunocytochemistry on neurons microinjected with BAPTA free acid and the dye Lucifer Yellow showed BAPTA-specific staining which was distributed in the cell similarly to that of the accompanying marker dye. Application of EDC also efficiently fixed in situ analogs of BAPTA such as Calcium Green (a fluorescent Ca2+ indicator) as shown by confocal imaging of EDC-fixed brain slices loaded with this indicator. Taken together, these data show that EDC is an effective, inexpensive and versatile fixative for calcium chelators in diverse cells. The availability of a suitable fixative now makes it possible to determine the distributions of such chelators at both the light and, possibly, the electron microscope level. Two important features of EDC, arise from its specificity for free carboxyl groups. First, the ability to fix, selectively, the chelators but not their AM esters; and, second, its enormous potential as a fixative for the numerous other carboxyl-containing chelators, dyes and pH indicators currently available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Autoradiography
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry
  • Chelating Agents / chemistry*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Egtazic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Egtazic Acid / chemistry
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Ethyldimethylaminopropyl Carbodiimide / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Hippocampus / chemistry
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / immunology
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / chemistry
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / immunology
  • Tissue Fixation / methods*


  • Antibodies
  • Chelating Agents
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Organic Chemicals
  • calcium green
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Egtazic Acid
  • 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid
  • Ethyldimethylaminopropyl Carbodiimide