UNIT 1.15 Histochemical Methods for the Detection of Apoptosis in the Nervous System

  1. Tinmarla Frances Oo,
  2. Robert E. Burke

Published Online: 1 APR 2007

DOI: 10.1002/0471142301.ns0115s39

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

How to Cite

Oo, T. F. and Burke, R. E. 2007. Histochemical Methods for the Detection of Apoptosis in the Nervous System. Current Protocols in Neuroscience. 39:1.15:1.15.1–1.15.17.

Author Information

  1. Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 APR 2007
  2. Published Print: APR 2007


Neuroscientists often need to detect neuron death at the light microscope level in tissue sections derived from animal models of neurological disease. In many instances there is a need to detect apoptosis, the most common morphology of programmed cell death. This unit provides two protocols for the detection of apoptosis by immunostaining for either activated forms of caspases or their cleavage products. When used in conjunction with nuclear dyes, these protocols permit visualization not only of caspase activation, but also the nuclear chromatin clumps characteristic of apoptosis. The first protocol utilizes peroxidase-mediated chromogen deposition to visualize antibodies by brightfield microscopy. The second protocol utilizes fluorophores to visualize antibodies by epifluorescence. Double immunofluorescence labeling can be performed to identify the phenotype of cells in which caspases are activated. Not all cell death is apoptotic. Therefore, a third protocol is presented for suppressed silver staining, a useful method to screen for all morphologic forms of cell death.


  • apoptosis;
  • programmed cell death;
  • caspases;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • silver staining