Modification of methods to use Congo-red stain to simultaneously visualize amyloid plaques and tangles in human and rodent brain tissue sections

Sumit Sarkar, James Raymick, Elvis Cuevas, Hector Rosas-Hernandez, Joseph Hanig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although there are multiple histochemical tracers available to label plaques and tangles in the brain to evaluate neuropathology in Alzheimer disease (AD), few of them are versatile in nature and compatible with immunohistochemical procedures. Congo Red (CR) is an anisotropic organic stain discovered to label amyloid beta (Aβ) plaques in the brain. Unfortunately, its use is underappreciated due to its low resolution and brightness as stated in previous studies using bright field microscopy. Here, we modified a previous method to localize both plaques and tangles in brains from humans and a transgenic rodent model of AD for fluorescence microscopic visualization. The plaque staining affinities displayed by CR were compared with fibrillar pattern labeling seen with Thioflavin S. This study summarizes the optimization of protocols in which various parameters have been finetuned. To determine the target CR potentially binds, we have performed double labeling with different antibodies against Aβ as well as phosphorylated Tau. The plaque staining affinities exhibited by CR are compared with those associated with the diffuse pattern of labeling seen with antibodies directed against different epitopes of Aβ. Neither CP13, TNT2 or TOC1 binds all the neurofibrillary tangles as revealed by CR labeling in the human brain. Additionally, we also evaluated double labeling with AT8, AT180, and PHF1. Interestingly, PHF-1 shows 40% colocalization and AT8 shows 15% colocalization with NFT. Thus, CR is a much better marker to detect AD pathologies in human and rodent brains with higher fluorescence intensity relative to other conventional fluorescence markers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1383
Number of pages13
JournalMetabolic brain disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Amyloid plaques
  • Congo red
  • Human brain
  • Neurofibrillary tangle
  • Transgenic rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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