Glutaraldehyde (Pentanedial)

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Chemical structure of glutaraldehyde (1,5-pentane-dial)

Glutaraldehyde (1,5-pentanedial) is a common fixative in biology. It is used to reduce degradation in cells, tissues, and entire organisms before further experiments like electron microscopy.


  • Glutaraldehyde is a potent fixative, and should only be used in a chemical fume hood. Do not dispose of excess fixative or glutaraldehyde solution in the sink.
  • Glutaraldehyde causes more autofluorescence than PFA. See Griffin IHC notes.


  • Glutaraldehyde is used to fix specimen before electron microscopy where it is employed alone or mixed with polymethanal (paraformaldehyde) as the first of 2 fixations followed by osmium tetroxide.
  • Glutaraldehyde is used as an amine cross-linker.
  • Glutaraldehyde is used in SDS-PAGE to fix/crosslink proteins and peptides prior to staining. Gels are treated with a 5% solution for ~30 min, after which it must be thoroughly washed to remove the yellow stain brought about by reacting with free Tris. Alternatively, gels can be washed before fixation.