Do Tissues Fixed in a Non-crosslinking Fixative Require a Dedicated Formalin-free Processor?

Sonia G. Frasquilho, Ignacio Sanchez, Changyoung Yoo, Laurent Antunes, Camille Bellora, William Mathieson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


We evaluate the consequences of processing alcohol-fixed tissue in a processor previously used for formalin-fixed tissue. Biospecimens fixed in PAXgene Tissue Fixative were cut into three pieces then processed in a flushed tissue processor previously used for formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks (neutral buffered formalin [NBF]+ve), a formalin-free system (NBF−ve), or left unprocessed. Histomorphology and immunohistochemistry were compared using hematoxylin/eosin staining and antibodies for MLH-1, Ki-67, and CK-7. Nucleic acid was extracted using the PAXgene Tissue RNA/DNA kits and an FFPE RNA extraction kit. RNA integrity was assessed using RNA integrity number (RIN), reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (four amplicons), and quantitative RT-PCR (three genes). For DNA, multiplex PCR, quantitative PCR, DNA integrity number, and gel electrophoresis were used. Compared with NBF−ve, RNA from NBF+ve blocks had 88% lower yield and poorer purity; average RIN reduced from 5.0 to 3.8, amplicon length was 408 base pairs shorter, and Cq numbers were 1.9–2.4 higher. Using the FFPE extraction kit rescued yield and purity, but RIN further declined by 1.1 units. Differences between NBF+ve and NBF−ve in respect of DNA, histomorphology, and immunohistochemistry were either non-existent or small in magnitude. Formalin contamination of a tissue processor and its reagents therefore critically reduce RNA yield and integrity. We discuss the available options users can adopt to ameliorate this problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-405
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Illumina
  • PFPE
  • ScreenTape
  • Xylene
  • degradation
  • degrade
  • fixative
  • formaldehyde
  • integrity
  • paraffin


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