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Loss of Immunohistochemical Reactivity in Association With Handling-Induced Dark Neurons in Mouse Brains


The handling-induced dark neuron is a histological artifact observed in brain samples handled before fixation with aldehydes. To explore associations between dark neurons and immunohistochemical alterations in mouse brains, we examined protein products encoded by Cav3 (neuronal perikarya/neurites), Rbbp4 (neuronal nuclei), Gfap (astroglia), and Aif1 (microglia) genes in adjacent tissue sections. Here, dark neurons were incidental findings from our prior project, studying the effects of age and high-fat diet on metabolic homeostasis in male C57BL/6N mice. Available were brains from 4 study groups: middle-aged/control diet, middle-aged/high-fat diet, old/control diet, and old/high-fat diet. Young/control diet mice were used as baseline. The hemibrains were immersion-fixed with paraformaldehyde and paraffin-embedded. In the hippocampal formation, we found negative correlations between dark neuron hyperbasophilia and immunoreactivity for CAV3, RBBP4, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) using quantitative image analysis. There was no significant difference in dark neuron hyperbasophilia or immunoreactivity for any protein examined among all groups. In contrast, in the hippocampal fimbria, old age seemed to be associated with higher immunoreactivity for GFAP and allograft inflammatory factor-1. Our findings suggest that loss of immunohistochemical reactivity for CAV3, RBBP4, and GFAP in the hippocampal formation is an artifact associated with the occurrence of dark neurons. The unawareness of dark neurons may lead to misinterpretation of immunohistochemical reactivity alterations.

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