The glycoprotein, avidin, conjugated either to the enzyme horseradish peroxidase, or to the fluorochrome dyes, fluorescein or rhodamine, identifies the granules of the mast cells in both tissues and cell suspensions. In the absence of prior fixation, mast cells were not identified with conjugated avidin; however, granules released from these cells were stained with this labeled glycoprotein. The specificity of avidin for mast cells was confirmed by the absence of conjugated avidin-positive cells in the skin of mice (S1/S1(d)) deficient in mature dermal mast cells. Electron microscopic studies confirmed that avidin binds specifically to individual mast cell granules rather than to other cellular structures. Rodent and human mast cells were readily stained with avidin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase or to either of the fluorochrome dyes. The conjugated avidin staining technique is a reliable and simple method for identifying rodent and human mast cells, one that is useful as both an investigative and a clinical tool.
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