A simple and sensitive method for the demonstration of norepinephrine- storing adrenomedullary chromaffin cells

Mohammad Badruzzaman Khan, Byung Rho Lee, Tetsu Kamitani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The medulla of the adrenal gland is a neuroendocrine tissue in which catecholamine-storing chromaffin cells exist. The chromaffin cells are derived from neural crest cells and distinctly differentiated into two types of cells, epinephrine (E) (adrenaline)-storing and norepinephrine (NE) (noradrenaline)-storing cells. Using histochemical or immunostaining methods, the two types of chromaffin cells have been differentially distinguished. However, difficulties and/or drawbacks of the procedures have somewhat restricted the progress of research in differential functions of E-storing and NE-storing cells. Here, we show a new method for the differential demonstration of these two cell types. We found that mouse and rat adrenomedullary cells are heterogeneously stained with Harris hematoxylin after treatment with citrate buffer at pH 6. The cell clusters stained with hematoxylin were positive for tyrosine hydroxylase, which is an enzyme involved in catecholamine biosynthesis. Furthermore, the cell clusters were negative for phenylethanolamine-N-methyl transferase, which is an enzyme responsible for the conversion from NE to E and expresses in E-storing chromaffin cells. Moreover, we found that the cell clusters stained with hematoxylin can also be stained with nitroblue tetrazolium at pH 11, using Hopsu and Mäkinen's method by which NE-storing chromaffin cells are stained. These observations indicate that the cytoplasm of NE-storing chromaffin cells is specifically stained with hematoxylin after treatment with citrate buffer at pH 6. This method will allow us to facilitate cell-type specific research of chromaffin cells. Indeed, this method revealed that α-synuclein selectively expresses in E-storing chromaffin cells, but not in NE-storing chromaffin cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalHistochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012



  • Adrenal
  • Chromaffin
  • Epinephrine
  • Medulla
  • PNMT
  • α-Synuclein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Histology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medical Laboratory Technology
  • Cell Biology

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