Effects of fixation with glutaraldehyde (GA), glutaraldehyde-osmium tetroxide (GA-OsO4), and osmium tetroxide (OsO4) on ion and ATP content, cell volume, vital dye staining, and stability to mechanical and thermal stress were studied in Ehrlich ascites tumor cells (EATC). Among variables investigated were fixation time, fixative concentration, temperature, osmolality of the fixative agent and buffer, total osmolality of the fixative solution, osmolality of the postfixation buffer, and time of postfixation treatment in buffer (Sutherland, R. M., et al. 1967. J. Cell Physiol. 69:185.).
Rapid loss of potassium, exchangeable magnesium, and ATP, and increase of vital dye uptake and electrical conductivity occurred with all fixatives studied. These changes were virtually immediate with GA-OsO4 or OsO4 but slower with GA (in the latter case they were dependent on fixative temperature and concentration) (Foot, N. C. 1950. In McClung's Handbook of Microscopical Technique. 3rd edition. 564.).
Total fixative osmolality had a marked effect on cell volume with OsO4 but little or no effect with GA or GA-OsO4. Osmolality of the buffer had a marked effect on cell volume with OsO4, whereas with GA or GA-OsO4 it was only significant at very hypotonic buffer osmolalities. Concentration of GA had no effect on cell volume. Osmolality of the postfixation buffer had little effect on cell volume, and duration of fixation or postfixation treatment had no effect with all fixatives.
Freezing and thawing or centrifugal stress (up to 100,000 g) had little or no effect on cell volume after all fixatives studied. Mechanical stress obtained by sonication showed that OsO4 alone produced poor stabilization and that GA fixation alone produced the greatest stabilization.
The results indicate that rapid membrane permeability changes of EATC follow fixative action. The results are consistent with known greater stabilizing effects of GA on model protein systems since cells were also rendered relatively stable to osmotic stress during fixation, an effect not noted with OsO4. After fixation with GA and/or OsO4 cells were stable to osmotic, thermal, or mechanical stress; this is inconsistent with several earlier reports that GA-fixed cells retain their osmotic properties.