Optimizing Tissue Preservation for High-Resolution Confocal Imaging of Single-Molecule RNA-FISH

Nash Redmayne, Shawn L. Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past century, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples have represented the standard for basic histology and immunostaining. However, FFPE has several limitations and less stringent tissue preservation methods are required for the visualization of nucleic acids at high resolution, particularly those that are expressed at low levels. Here, we describe the FFPE properties that negatively impact RNA integrity, an alternative tissue preservation technique that prevents RNA loss, and the steps necessary to optimize slide preparation for single-molecule RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (smRNA-FISH) and imaging by confocal microscopy. This strategy retains RNA quality and eliminates formalin-induced artifacts, thereby producing high-resolution, diffraction-limited confocal images of even rare RNA transcripts in tissues. As non-coding RNAs and alternative splicing of gene isoforms continue to emerge as important regulators of human health and disease, a reliable, cost-effective approach is required to examine the expression and localization of RNA targets in patient samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere107
JournalCurrent protocols in molecular biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • RNA degradation
  • alcohol fixation
  • formalin fixation
  • single-molecule RNA-FISH
  • tissue preservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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