Whole-mount bone and cartilage staining of chick embryos with minimal decalcification

Y. Yamazaki, M. Yuguchi, S. Kubota, K. Isokawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Whole-mount staining with Alcian blue for cartilage and alizarin red for bone has been widely used for visualizing the skeletal patterns of embryos and small adult vertebrates. The possibility of decalcification by the acidic Alcian blue solution is known, but standard staining protocols do not always avoid this issue. We investigated the effects of acidity on the stainability of developing bones in stage 36 chick embryos and developed an optimal procedure for obtaining reliable results with minimal decalcification. The diaphyses of long bone rudiments and the maxillofacial membranous bones progressively lost their stainability with alizarin red when the chick embryos were soaked for long periods in the preceding acidic Alcian blue staining solution for cartilage. Unless the acidity was neutralized with an alkaline solution, the remaining acidity in the specimens rendered the pH sufficiently low to prevent the subsequent alizarin red staining of the bones. These findings indicate that the mineralizing bones at the early stages of development are labile to acidity and become decalcified more substantially during the staining process than previously appreciated. The following points are important for visualizing such labile mineralizing bones in chick embryos: 1) fixing with formaldehyde followed by soaking in 70% ethanol, 2) minimizing the time that the specimens are exposed to the acidic Alcian blue solution, and 3) neutralizing and dehydrating the specimens by an alkaline-alcohol solution immediately after the cartilage staining. When the exact onset and/or an early phase of ossification are of interest, the current double-staining procedure should be accompanied by a control single-staining procedure directed only toward bone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-358
Number of pages8
JournalBiotechnic and Histochemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • acidity
  • Alcian blue
  • alizarin red
  • bone
  • cartilage
  • chick embryo
  • decalcification
  • development
  • double staining
  • whole-mount preparation


Dive into the research topics of 'Whole-mount bone and cartilage staining of chick embryos with minimal decalcification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this