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Keywords:

  • Ciliates;
  • staining

Abstract

The protargol staining method has proved to be indispensable for revealing the cellular structures of a variety of protozoa, especially the flagellates and ciliates. Protargol provides permanent stains of a variety of cellular structures: nuclei, extrusomes, basal bodies, and microfilamentous constituents of cells. Together with the older silver nitrate methods, protargol impregnations have provided the basis for the detailed descriptions of nearly all ciliates to date. The performance of commercially available preparations has varied widely. Recently, suppliers have stopped stocking the effective forms of protargol resulting in a worldwide shortage. Thus, it has become necessary for protistologists to explore on-site synthesis of this critically important agent. An optimum protocol for synthesis of protargol should be rapid, relatively inexpensive, simple enough to be done by non-chemists, and achievable without specialized equipment. In this article, the authors briefly review the interesting history of protargol and describe a protocol, based on the early studies of neuroanatomists, that yields a protargol producing impregnations of ciliates comparable to those obtained with previously available commercial preparations.