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Application of Immunohistochemistry in Stereology for Quantitative Assessment of Neural Cell Populations Illustrated in the Göttingen Minipig

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043556
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Neurological System
  • Central Nervous System
  • Nerve Tissue
  • Nervous System Components
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Comparative Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Neuroscience
  • Cellular Neuroscience
  • Neuronal Morphology
  • Neurochemistry
  • Neurochemicals
  • Medicine
  • Clinical Immunology
  • Immunologic Techniques
  • Immunohistochemical Analysis
  • Diagnostic Medicine
  • Pathology
  • Anatomical Pathology
  • Cytopathology
  • Neuropathology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics


Background Stereology is the study of estimating geometric quantities. When successfully applied, the combination of immunohistochemistry (IHC) and stereology eliminates intra- and interobserver variability for cell type identification. Methodology/Principal Findings We propose a method to validate existing antibody based cell type markers for stereological application. Comparison was made on the 100-days-old Göttingen minipig (G-mini) neocortex between estimates of total neuron number derived from Giemsa staining using morphological criteria and immunohistochemistry-based cell counting with NeuN. The mean total neuron numbers estimated by the two staining methods were not significantly different. Estimated quantities, including glial cell number, neocortical volume, cell densities and glial-to-neuron ratio were also presented. Additionally, we assessed other commonly used glial markers and discussed how to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of these markers for stereological estimation of cell number. Conclusion/Significance The concordance in quantitative estimates of total neuron number derived from NeuN- and Giemsa-stained sections provides evidence for the sensitivity and specificity of NeuN as a neuronal marker in the G-mini. Although time-consuming, quantitative validation of IHC should always be considered in stereological studies if there is doubt of the sensitivity, specificity, or reproducibility of cell type markers. Inaccurate staining may cause both over- and underestimation of the total cell number and inflict considerable limitation when analyzing the results.

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