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H&E stain: Wikis

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Histologic specimen of human lung tissue stained with hematoxylin and eosin.

H&E stain, HE stain or hematoxylin and eosin stain, is a popular staining method in histology. It is the most widely used stain in medical diagnosis; for example when a pathologist looks at a biopsy of a suspected cancer, the histological section is likely to be stained with H&E and termed H&E section, H+E section, or HE section.

The staining method involves application of the basic dye hematoxylin, which colors basophilic structures with blue-purple hue, and alcohol-based acidic eosin Y, which colors eosinophilic structures bright pink.

The basophilic structures are usually the ones containing nucleic acids, such as the ribosomes and the chromatin-rich cell nucleus, and the cytoplasmatic regions rich in RNA.

The eosinophilic structures are generally composed of intracellular or extracellular protein. The Lewy bodies and Mallory bodies are examples of eosinophilic structures. Most of the cytoplasm is eosinophilic. Red blood cells are stained intensely red.

The structures do not have to be acidic or basic to be called basophilic and eosinophilic. The terminology is based on the affinity to the dyes.

Other colors, e.g. yellow and brown, can be present in the sample; they are caused by intrinsic pigments, e.g. melanin.

Some structures do not stain well. Basal laminae need to be stained by PAS stain or some silver stains, if they have to be well visible. Reticular fibers also require silver stain. Hydrophobic structures also tend to remain clear; these are usually rich in fats, eg. adipocytes, myelin around neuron axons, and Golgi apparatus membranes.

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