Gram Stain Protocol
Grams Iodine – Crystal Violet
Safranin O – Neutral Red
Gram’s Fuchsin – Gram’s Decolouriser
Gram’s Stain distinguishes between the two major classes of bacteria due to the differences in cell wall structure ;
Gram-positive bacteria, remain coloured after the staining procedure, and gram-negative bacteria, which do not retain dye.
In the staining technique, cells on a microscope slide are heat-fixed and stained with a basic dye, Crystal Violet, which stains all bacterial cells blue. Iodide solution is then added that allows the iodine to enter the cells and form a water-insoluble complex with the Crystal Violet dye. The preparation is then treated with a decolourise solvent, in which the iodine-crystal violet complex is soluble.
Following solvent treatment, only gram-positive cells remain stained, possibly because of their thick cell wall, which is not permeable to solvent. After the staining procedure, cells are treated with a Counterstain which may be Safranin O, Gram’s Fuchsin or Neutral Red. Counterstained gram-negative cells appear red, and gram-positive cells remain blue.
Although the cell walls of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria are similar in chemical composition, the cell wall of gram-negative bacteria is a thin layer sandwiched between an outer lipid-containing cell envelope and the inner cell membrane, whereas the gram-positive cell wall is much thicker, lacks the cell envelope, and contains additional substances, such as teichoic acids, polymers composed of glycerol or ribitol.
The difference in reactivity between gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria is linked with differences in physiological properties of the two groups.