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In situ hybridization (ISH) is a type of hybridization that uses a labeled complementary DNA or RNA strand (i.e., probe) to localize a specific DNA or RNA sequence in a portion or section of tissue (in situ), or, if the tissue is small enough (e.g. plant seeds, Drosophila embryos), in the entire tissue (whole mount ISH). This is distinct from immunohistochemistry, which localizes proteins in tissue sections. DNA ISH can be used to determine the structure of chromosomes. Fluorescent DNA ISH (FISH) can, for example, be used in medical diagnostics to assess chromosomal integrity. RNA ISH (hybridization histochemistry) is used to measure and localize mRNAs and other transcripts within tissue sections or whole mounts.
For hybridization histochemistry, sample cells and tissues are usually treated to fix the target transcripts in place and to increase access of the probe. As noted above, the probe is either a labeled complementary DNA or, now most commonly, a complementary RNA (riboprobe). The probe hybridizes to the target sequence at elevated temperature, and then the excess probe is washed away (after prior hydrolysis using RNase in the case of unhybridized, excess RNA probe). Then, the probe that was labeled with either radio-, fluorescent- or antigen-labeled bases is localized and quantitated in the tissue using either autoradiography, fluorescence microscopy or immunohistochemistry, respectively. ISH can also use two or more probes, labeled with radioactivity or the other non-radioactive labels, to simultaneously detect two or more transcripts.
- Jin L, Lloyd RV. In situ hybridization: methods and applications. J Clin Lab Anal. 11(1):2-9, 1997. PMID 9021518
- Comprehensive and annotated in situ hybridization histochemistry