Calcium-induced modification of protein conformation demonstrated by immunohistochemistry: What is the signal?

Shan Rong Shi, Richard J. Cote, Debra Hawes, Sandra Thu, Yan Shi, Lillian L. Young, Clive R. Taylor

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33 Scopus citations


A recent study by Morgan et al. on the mechanism of the heating antigen retrieval (AR) has raised an interesting issue concerning calcium-induced modification of protein conformation demonstrated by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The current study is based on calcium-induced modification of thrombospondin (TSP) and Ki-67, as demonstrated by IHC using seven monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to TSP and an MAb MIB1. Experiments were carried out on frozen tissue sections of bladder carcinoma and lymph node. Frozen sections were incubated with solutions of 50 mM CaCl2 and/or 10 mM EDTA at 4C overnight before formalin or acetone fixation for TSP and Ki-67, respectively. Sections were then fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin or acetone before immunostaining. Seven MAbs to TSP, named Ab1 to 7 representing clone numbers of A4.1, D4.6, C6.7, A6.1, B5.2, A2.5, and HB8432, respectively, and MIB1 were utilized as primary antibodies. ABC was used as the detection system and AEC as the chromogen for immunohistochemical staining. An extracellular immunostaining pattern represented a positive result for TSP, and nuclear staining for MIB1. Frozen sections preincubated in 50 mM CaCl2 overnight at 4C showed significant loss of staining and/or altered staining pattern for six of the seven antibodies to TSP and MIB1 compared to positive controls not exposed to CaCl2. Lack of immunostaining of TSP and MIB1 attributable to exposure to CaCl2 could be partially recovered by incubating the frozen sections in EDTA. Calcium-induced modification of protein structure was demonstrated more than 10 years ago on the basis of immunochemical techniques. In this study, similar calcium- induced modification of protein was detectable by IHC in frozen tissue sections, suggesting that calcium-induced modification of protein structure may occur independently of fixation-induced modification. The fact that calcium binding may affect IHC staining is not surprising in view of the fact that antibody/antigen interactions are protein structure-dependent. However, in this experiment the change occurred before and independent of formalin fixation and does not necessarily imply a role for calcium in AR. There may be a valuable role for the use of chemical modification in visualization of protein structure changes in tissue sections by IHC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-469
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Antigen retrieval
  • Antigen-antibody recognition
  • Chemical modification of protein structure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Protein conformation


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