Quantitative aspects of DNA losses during fixation and pararosaniline(SO2)-Feulgen staining of microscopic preparations were studied. The preparation of a new cytochemical model, consisting of DNA-protein layers (with thicknesses between 0.1 and 5.0 μm) on microscopic glass slides is described and potentialities and limitations of this model are discussed. Polyacrylamide films into which high molecular weight calf thymus DNA or chicken erythrocyte nuclei had been constrained served as another model. As biological objects chicken erythrocyte nuclei and rat liver nuclei either in suspension or on microscopical glass slides were used. The experimental results indicate a loss of about 5% of the DNA due to the fixation procedure applied. Hydrolysis in 5 N HCl at room temperature, staining with the pararosaniline-Schiff medium and rinsing with sulfurous acid induced losses of DNA too, varying in amount depending on the type of preparation used. About 10% of the original DNA content is lost in total from chicken erythrocyte nuclei and rat liver nuclei dried on microscopical glass slides, from chicken erythrocyte nuclei constrained in polyacrylamide films, and from DNA-protein layers on microscopic glass slides. For nuclei fixed and stained in suspension the total losses amount to about 40%. The differences in losses between various types of preparations are discussed. Biochemically, the content of DNA originally present per chicken eythrocyte nucleus was determined to be 2.52 pg, a value, which is in good accordance with reliable biochemical data published already. It is shown that calibration of cytochemical staining intensities into biochemical units or absolute amounts of material by use of a model system, is only reliable when it is known or to be expected that both the loss of material due to fixation and staining, and the stoichiometric relation between material present and dye molecules is identical. The same holds for the application of internal biological reference systems.
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