The PAS staining technique is the most widely used procedure for the demonstration of glycogen and certain glycoconjugates. The mechanism by which the PAS works is as follows:
- Aldehyde groups are formed from carbohydrates (glycogen) within the tissue section via oxidation after exposure to periodic acid.
- The tissue section is then incubated in Schiff reagent, a colorless solution consisting of basic fuchsin, hydrochloric acid, and sodium metabisulfite.
- Chemical bonding between the aldehyde groups and the Schiff reagent results in glycogen being colored magenta (bright pinkish-red).
- The section is finally rinsed with running water, which excites chemical activity releasing additional chemical groups that intensifies the stain reaction.
Hematoxylin or fast green may be used as counterstains.