Quantification of cerebral amyloid angiopathy and parenchymal amyloid plaques with Congo red histochemical stain

Donna M. Wilcock, Marcia N. Gordon, Dave Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


In the current protocol, we describe the Congo red staining method and a method for separately quantifying vascular and parenchymal amyloid deposits in brain tissue sections. Congo red staining detects amyloid deposits in brain tissue of amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice and human Alzheimer's tissue. It detects compacted amyloid in a β-sheet secondary structure and labels amyloid in both the brain parenchyma (amyloid plaques) and blood vessels. Congophilic amyloid in blood vessels is called cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). To date, analysis of CAA has largely used a severity rating scale, including both qualitative and quantitative characteristics. Here, we describe a simple method for quantifying total Congophilic staining and resolution of this staining into the parenchymal and vascular components based on morphological criteria. It is becoming increasingly important to separately quantify various components of the Alzheimer's pathology, given the advancement of amyloid-lowering therapies into clinical trials. The entire procedure for the Congo red staining can be performed at room temperature (20-25 °C) in a fume hood. The staining protocol should take 1 h 30 min including time for coverslipping slides. Time required for image analysis depends greatly on the number of samples being analyzed and the software being used. In our hands, 30 images can be collected per hour and quantified in a further 2 h.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1591-1595
Number of pages5
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We have been supported by NIH awards AG15490, AG18478, AG25509, AG25711 and NS48335. D.M.W. was a Benjamin Scholar in Alzheimer’s Research.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)


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