Stains & CD markers
Alcian blue (AB)

Last author update: 1 December 2013
Last staff update: 2 August 2023

Copyright: 2003-2024,, Inc.

PubMed Search: alcian blue[title]

Nat Pernick, M.D.
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Cite this page: Pernick N. Alcian blue. website. Accessed July 13th, 2024.
Definition / general
  • Common "routine" stain (not an immunohistochemical stain) to detect mucins (Wikipedia: Alcian Blue Stain [Accessed 8 August 2018])
  • At pH 2.5, detects acidic mucins
  • At pH 1.0, detects highly acidic mucins
  • Stained parts are blue to bluish green
  • Note: all references below are to pH 2.5 unless otherwise indicated
Uses by pathologists
  • Stains acid-simple, nonsulfated and acid-simple mesenchymal mucins at pH 2.5, acid-complex sulfated mucins at pH 1.0 and acid-complex connective tissue mucins at pH 0.5; does NOT stain neutral mucins
  • PAS-Alcian blue may be best pan mucin combination; PAS also stains glycogen, but predigestion with diastase will remove the glycogen
  • Alcian blue-high iron diamine detects sulfomucins (brown) and sialomucins (blue)
Clinical features
Microscopic (histologic) images

AFIP images and Cases #78, 94 and 110

Bladder: urothelial
carcinoma with
gland-like lumina


Mucin stains of Barrett mucosa

Mucin stains of Barrett mucosa

Heart: myxoma with glandular structures

Kidney: adenocarcinoma (AB-PAS)

Sacrum, Chordoma: stroma stains with Alcian blue

Scrotum: Paget disease

Thyroid gland: signet ring cell variant

Images hosted other servers:

(Alcian blue-PAS)

Esophagus, Barrett: GE junction

Eye: macular corneal dystrophy

Gallbladder: pyloric metaplasia

Kidney: mucinous
tubular and
spindle cell

Soft tissue: proliferative fasciitis - AB-PAS

Positive staining - normal
  • Colloid of thyroid gland, goblet cells and mucous glands
Positive staining - disease
  • Adenocarcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, mast cell leukemia (Acta Med Croatica 2013;67:61)
  • Mucinous tumors, myxedema (dermal mucin), myxoma (mucoid matrix), nodular mucinosis (breast, other) and Paget disease of scrotum
Negative staining
  • Lipids / lipid entities (lipoma, liposarcoma), Paget disease of esophagus, squamous cell carcinoma (acantholytic variant-breast & other sites, pseudoglandular variant-penis & other sites), xanthelasma
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