, Volume 56, Issue 3–4, pp 177–185 | Cite as

Demonstration of phosphates in calcium deposits: A modification of von Kossa's reaction

  • Holde Puchtler
  • Susan N. Meloan


It has been suggested that in von Kóss'as technic silver cations replace calcium bound to phosphate or carbonate groups and are then reduced to black metallic silver during exposure to light. However, in test tube experiments silver phosphate retains its yellow color for days. These differences between reactions of pure calcium phosphates and calcium deposits in tissues were emphasized already by von Kóssa; he regarded only the initial yellow coloration of calcium diagnostic for calcium phosphates and deplored the subsequent blackening caused by organic compounds. Von Kóssa's experiments were easily reproducible. A review of the literature showed that reduction of silver nitrate by organic compounds was well known in the 19th century. For histochemical studies of phosphates it was deemed desirable to avoid the formation of black by-products. Sections of paraffin-embedded human tissues were exposed to solutions of silver nitrate in subdued light or darkness and then treated with sodium thiosulfate. Silver phosphate was yellow to yellowish brown; other tissue structures remained colorless. No darkening was observed in sections stored for eight years. Other compounds which form yellow silver salts, e.g. iodides and periodates, are unlikely to occur in paraffin sections of human tissues.


Sodium Thiosulfate Human Tissue Thiosulfate Calcium Phosphate Periodate 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holde Puchtler
    • 1
  • Susan N. Meloan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PathologyMedical College of GeorgiaAugustaUSA

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