Among the techniques which have been reported to stain the surface coat of cells, for electron microscopy, is lanthanum staining en bloc. Similarly, the presence of the cationic dye, Alcian blue 8GX, in a primary glutaraldehyde fixative has been reported to improve the preservation of the surface coat of cells of many types; however, the preserved coat is not very electron opaque unless thin sections are counterstained. The present paper shows that for several rat tissues lanthanum staining en bloc is an effective electron stain for the cell surface, giving excellent contrast, if combined sequentially with prefixation in an aldehyde fixative containing Alcian blue. The cationic substance cetylpyridinium chloride was found to have a similar effect to that of Alcian blue in enhancing the lanthanum staining of the surface coat material of the brush border of intestinal epithelial cells. The patterns of lanthanum staining obtained for the tissues studied strikingly resemble those reported in the literature where tissues are stained by several standard methods for demonstrating mucosubstances at the ultrastructural level. This fact and the reproduction of the effect of Alcian blue by cetylpyridinium chloride constitute a persuasive empirical argument that the material visualized is a mucopolysaccharide or mucopolysaccharide-protein complex.

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