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ACS Chemical Biology

  • Oncology

Hematoxylin Nuclear Stain Reports Oxidative Stress via Near-Infrared Emission

Authors Rachel E. Langenbacher, Christopher P. Horoszko, Mijin Kim, and Daniel A. Heller*


Hematoxylin & eosin (H&E) is the gold standard histological stain used for medical diagnosis and has been used for over a century. Herein, we examined the near-infrared II (NIR-II) fluorescence of this stain. We observed significant NIR-II emission from the hematoxylin component of the H&E stain. We found that the emission intensity, using the common aluminum(III) hematoxylin mordant, could be modulated by the availability of endogenous iron(III), and this emission intensity increased at higher oxidative stress. Our mechanistic investigations found that hematoxylin emission reported the nuclear translocation of the iron via the protein ferritin. In human tumor tissue samples, oxidative stress biomarkers correlated with hematoxylin NIR-II emission intensity. Emission response of the stain was also observed in human Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue regions affected by disease progression, suggesting that ferritin nuclear translocation is preserved in these regions as an oxidative stress response. These findings indicate that NIR-II emission from the H&E stain provides a new source of redox information in tissues with implications for biomedical research and clinical practice.

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