Journal of Microscopy, 131 (2). pp. 173-186.
Many of the difficulties of staining plastic embedded tissues for light and electron microscopy derive from physical exclusion of hydrophilic staining reagents by hydrophobic embedding media. Structures which stain most intensely with hydrophilic reagents usually contain less hydrophobic plastic than do non-staining structures. Such incomplete infiltration is apparently caused by exclusion of viscous, hydrophobic monomers by physically dense and/or well hydrated tissue elements. In keeping with this, generalized staining of tissues embedded in hydrophobic media does occur when hydrophobic reagents are used. Staining of plastic-free structures with single hydrophilic reagents or with sequences of such reagents, is, however, largely rate-controlled.
The surprising similarity of hydrophilic and hydrophobic plastic embedding media is discussed.
Limits of this simple model are explored, with a consideration of the roles of fixative and of monomer-tissue reactions