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Histochemistry. 1979 Sep;63(2):227-43.

The zinc iodide-osmium tetroxide staining-fixative of Maillet. Nature of the precipitate studied by x-ray microanalysis and detection of Ca2+-affinity subcellular sites in a tonic smooth muscle.


A mechanism of osmium reduction during zinc iodide-osmium tetroxide (ZIO) fixation is proposed. X-ray powder microanalyses of ZIO precipitates formed both in the presence or absence of tissues are identical with those of CuOsO4 and CuRuO4. Therefore, and based on indexation methods, ZnOsO4 was found to be the formula of the ZIO mixture reduction; this zinc osmate has an orthorhombic crystalline lattice. In smooth muscle preparations, ZIO electron dense deposits are localized in both cisternae of the sarcoplasmic reticulum and in mitochondria after a short fixation time. According to the microanalysis results, the zinc osmate has been associated to Ca2+ high affinity sites since Zn2+ is either replacing Ca2+ and/or displacing it by having a higher affinity for Ca2+ binding sites. Consequently, the ZIO mixture might be useful in revealing some Ca2+ storage sites in cells. This hypothesis was tested in ABRM preparations by selectively depleting sites which are known to bind Ca2+. In this case, the sarcoplasmic reticulum only retains the staining deposits after a short ZIO fixation. It is likely that OsO4 alone, used as fixative in cytology might be due to the formation of metallic osmates (e.g., divalent osmates like CaOsO4). In addition, of course, reduction of osmium during tissue fixation is accompanied by oxidation of double bonds of lipoproteic complexes or unsaturated lipids, and oxidation of sulfhydryl groups and amino groups.

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