Orcein Staining and the Identification of Polytene Chromosomes

  • John Tonzetich
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 247)


Acetic orcein staining of polytene chromosomes was introduced in 1941 (1) shortly after the initial studies on aceto-carmine-stained chromosomes by Bridges (2) and has remained a standard method of preparation. Orcein dye can be purchased in both its natural form as extracted from two species of lichens, Rocella tinctoria and Lecanora parella, and a synthetic form. The mechanism of staining is not clearly understood because the stain itself is a variety of phenazones, which may interact at an acid pH with negatively charged groups or possibly interact hydrophobically with chromatin. Acetic acid fixation accommodates stretching of the chromosomes in the interband regions during a squash, thus providing for a higher resolution of the banding structure. The later addition of lactic acid to aceto-orcein (3) kept the glands softer in the fix and allowed for easier spreading of chromosomes. The method and its variations have appeared more recently in several publications (4,5).


Cover Slip Polytene Chromosome Fourth Chromosome Ectopic Pairing Interband Region 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Tonzetich
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBucknell UniversityLewisburg

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