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NeuroScience Associates

Autometallography: Detection of Metals


  • Used for the detection of various metals in tissue, e.g., Bi, Cu, Hg, Au and Ag.


  • A histologic means of detection for the location of certain metals.
  • Compliments the nonanatomical detection of metals by atomic absorption (A.A) or by ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma) spectroscopy.



Autometallography is a histological technique that exploits the presence of metal ions in tissue to act as a nucleation point around which silver ions are gathered to create a visible reaction product. The process is called “physical development”. The Timms silver sulphide method is the most well known autometallography procedure and it favors the revelation of zinc but not other metals.

Gorm Danscher in Denmark has championed the application of other autometallography protocols for detecting various metals in tissue. Another contributor, F. Gallyas of Hungary, has developed a family of physical developers that broaden the range of metals detectable with autometallography.


autometallographyNeurons in the hypoglossal nucleus of a mouse that was
chronically administered bismuth sub-salicylate.
The location of bismuth was revealed using an acidic
physical developer described by Gallyas.


(Ross, J. F., Switzer, R. C. III, Poston, M. R. and Lawhorn, G. T.. Distribution of bismuth in the brain after intraperitoneal dosing of bismuth subnitrate in mice: Implications for routes of entry of xenobiotic metals into the brain. Brain Res. 725, 137-154, 1996.)


For further reference, please see: Stains