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Immunohistochemistry is the localization of antigens in tissue sections by the use of labeled antibody as specific reagents through antigen-antibody interactions that are visualized by a marker such as fluorescent dye, enzyme, radioactive element or colloidal gold.
Albert H. Coons and his colleagues (Coons et al. 1941, 1955; Coons and Kaplan 1950) were the first to label antibodies with a fluorescent dye, and use it to identify antigens in tissue sections. With the expansion and development of immunohistochemistry technique, enzyme labels have been introduced such as peroxidase (Nakane and Pierce 1966; Avrameas and Uriel 1966) and alkaline phosphatase (Mason and Sammons 1978). Colloidal gold (Faulk and Taylor 1971) label has also been discovered and used to identify immunohistochemical reactions at both light and electron microscopy level. Other labels include radioactive elements, and the immunoreaction can be visualized by autoradiography.
Since immunohistochemistry involves specific antigen-antibody reaction, it has apparent advantage over traditionally used special enzyme staining techniques that identify only a limited number of proteins, enzymes and tissue structures. Therefore, immunohistochemistry has become a crucial technique and widely used in many medical research laboratories as well as clinical diagnostics.
There are numerous immunohistochemistry methods that may be used to localize antigens. The selection of a suitable method should be based on parameters such as the type of specimen under investigation and the degree of sensitivity required.