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J Histochem Cytochem. 2002 Jun;50(6):735-49.

From pixels to picograms: a beginners' guide to genome quantification by Feulgen image analysis densitometry.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


The study of genome size variation is important from a number of practical and theoretical perspectives. For example, the long-standing "C-value enigma" relating to the more than 200,000-fold range in eukaryotic genome sizes is best studied from a broad comparative standpoint. Genome size data are also required in detailed analyses of genome structure and evolution. The choice of future genome sequencing projects will be dependent on knowledge regarding the sizes of genomes to be sequenced, and so on. To date, genome size data have been acquired primarily by Feulgen microdensitometry or flow cytometry. Each has several advantages but also important limitations. In this review, we provide a practical guide to the new technique of Feulgen image analysis densitometry. The review is designed for those interested in genome size measurements but not extensively experienced in histochemistry, densitometry, or microscopy. Therefore, relevant historical and technical background information is included. For easy reference, we provide recipes for required reagents, guidelines for cell staining, and a checklist of steps for successful image analysis. We hope that the accuracy, rapidity, and cost-effectiveness of Feulgen image analysis demonstrated here will stimulate further surveys of genome sizes in a variety of taxa.

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