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STUDY QUESTION: Can ovarian tissue morphology be better preserved whilst enabling histological molecular analyses following fixation with a novel fixative, neutral buffered formalin (NBF) with 5% acetic acid (referred to hereafter as Form-Acetic)? SUMMARY ANSWER: Fixation with Form-Acetic improved ovarian tissue histology compared to NBF in multiple species while still enabling histological molecular analyses. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: NBF fixation results in tissue shrinkage in various tissue types including the ovary. Components of ovarian tissue, notably follicles, are particularly susceptible to NBF-induced morphological alterations and can lead to data misrepresentation. Bouin's solution (which contains 5% acetic acid) better preserves tissue architecture compared to NBF but is limited for immunohistochemical analyses. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: A comparison of routinely used fixatives, NBF and Bouin's, and a new fixative, Form-Acetic was carried out. Ovarian tissue was used from three different species: human (n = 5 patients), sheep (n = 3; 6 ovaries; 3 animals per condition) and mouse (n = 14 mice; 3 ovaries from 3 different animals per condition). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Ovarian tissue from humans (aged 13 weeks to 32 years), sheep (reproductively young i.e. 3-6 months) and mice (10 weeks old) were obtained and fixed in 2 ml NBF, Bouin's or Form-Acetic for 4, 8, and 24 h at room temperature. Tissues were embedded and sectioned. Five-micron sections were stained with haemotoxylin and eosin (H&E) and the percentage of artefact (clear space as a result of shrinkage) between ovarian structures was calculated. Additional histological staining using Periodic acid-Schiff and Masson's trichrome were performed on 8 and 24 h NBF, Bouin's and Form-Acetic fixed samples to assess the compatibility of the new fixative with stains. On ovarian tissue fixed for both 8 and 24 h in NBF and Form-Acetic, immunohistochemistry (IHC) studies to detect FOXO3a, FoxL2, collagen IV, laminin and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) proteins were performed in addition to the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay to determine the compatibility of Form-Acetic fixation with types of histological molecular analyses. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Fixation in Form-Acetic improved ovarian tissue morphology compared to NBF from all three species and either slightly improved or was comparable to Bouin's for human, mouse and sheep tissues. Form-Acetic was compatible with H&E, Periodic acid-Schiff and Masson's trichrome staining and all proteins (FOXO3a, FoxL2, collagen IV and laminin and AMH) could be detected via IHC. Furthermore, Form-Acetic, unlike NBF, enabled antigen recognition for most of the proteins tested without the need for antigen retrieval. Form-Acetic also enabled the detection of damaged DNA via the TUNEL assay using fluorescence. LARGE SCALE DATA: N/A. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: In this study, IHC analysis was performed on a select number of protein types in ovarian tissue thus encouraging further studies to confirm the use of Form-Acetic in enabling the detection of a wider range of protein forms in addition to other tissue types. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The simplicity in preparation of Form-Acetic and its superior preservative properties whilst enabling forms of histological molecular analyses make it a highly valuable tool for studying ovarian tissue. We, therefore, recommend that Form-Acetic replaces currently used fixatives and encourage others to introduce it into their research workflow. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by the Oxford Medical Research Council Doctoral Training Programme (Oxford MRC-DTP) grant awarded to B.D.B. (Grant no. MR/N013468/1), the Fondation Hoffmann supporting R.A. and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) awarded to B.V.A.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Reprod

Publication Date



Bouin’s, fixation, form-acetic, histology, human, immunohistochemistry, mouse, neutral buffered formalin, ovary, sheep