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J Bacteriol. 1983 Nov;156(2):837-45.

Chemical mechanism of the Gram stain and synthesis of a new electron-opaque marker for electron microscopy which replaces the iodine mordant of the stain.


Crystal violet (hexamethyl-para-rosaniline chloride) interacts with aqueous KI-I2 during the Gram stain via a simple metathetical anion exchange to produce a chemical precipitate. There is an apparent 1:1 stoichiometry between anion (I-) and cation (hexamethyl-para-rosaniline+) during the reaction and, since the small chloride anion is replaced by the bulkier iodide, the complex formed becomes insoluble in water. It is this same precipitate which forms in the cellular substance of bacteria (both gram-positive and gram-negative types) and which initiates the Gram reaction. Potassium trichloro(eta 2-ethylene)-platinum(II), as an electronopaque marker for electron microscopy, was chemically synthesized, and it produced an anion in aqueous solution which was compatible with crystal violet for the Gram stain. It interacted with crystal violet in a similar manner as iodide to produce an insoluble complex which was chemically and physically analogous to the dye-iodide precipitate. This platinum anion therefore allows the Gram staining mechanism to be followed by electron microscopy.

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