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Accessioning, Cataloguing, and Installing Tissues into MVZ

MVZ Handbook > MVZ Tissue Guidelines
Accessioning and Cataloguing

Assume that tissues exist for an accession unless told otherwise by the collector or donor. Data on tissues should be obtained from the field catalog. However, because collectors may be inconsistent in annotating their catalog with tissue information (despite our best intentions!), frozen and/or non-frozen tissues should be inventoried before starting to catalog a given accession. Frozen tissues should be kept on dry ice and inventoried in Room 4123A.

All tissues should be accessioned and catalogued into the collections at the same time as voucher specimens. If the accession includes a mixture of MVZ-vouchered and non-vouchered tissues, including vouchers deposited in another institution, the non-vouchered tissues should be integrated with the vouchered material when cataloguing.

“Nature of material” on the accession card should include information about tissues, i.e., number of samples and preservation method. Multiple vials per specimen count as 1 sample.

Tissues are treated like any other specimen part when cataloguing. For a specimen with tissue, write one of the following (or something similar) above the MVZ catalog number:

  • “+ tissue” – default for frozen tissue
  • “+ tissue in etoh” or “+ tissue in alc. – notation for tissue in 95% etoh
  • “+ tissue in 70% etoh” – example of notation for tissue preserved in a concentration other than 95% etoh
  • “+ tissue (frozen + etoh) – notation for multiple samples preserved both frozen and in 95% etoh
  • “+ tissue in DMSO/EDTA buffer” – example of notation for tissue preserved in a different solution
  • “+ tail tip in etoh” – example of notation for a non-standard tissue type

These annotations are in addition to the annotation for the specimen part. If only the above annotation is given, it implies the default preparation for the collection (Birds, study skin; Mammals, study skin + skull; Herps, whole fluid-preserved animal) PLUS tissue. If a different specimen part is catalogued, that should be indicated before the tissue annotation, e.g., “skeleton + tissue.”

Tissues without MVZ-vouchered specimens should be catalogued as “tissue only” above the MVZ catalog number. The preservation method is assumed to be frozen unless otherwise indicated, e.g., “tissue only in etoh.” Follow the same conventions as given above for vouchered tissues. Samples of blood or other non-standard tissues should be noted as “blood only,” “tail tip only,” etc.

If multiple vials are saved for a given preservation method, this should be indicated on the catalog card – either next to the tissue notation or on the back of the card and referenced to the MVZ number. If both frozen and non-frozen tissues are saved for a specimen, and one or both have multiple vials, it should be clear which preservation method is associated with which vial, e.g., “frozen plus 2 vials in etoh.” Annotating this information on the card is important for data entry, because each tissue sample vial gets a unique number in the database (the MVZ catalog no. with an extension of “.1”, “.2,” etc.) with its own preservation method (see data entry manual).

Sometimes, specimens are collected in which a whole animal is saved in a tissue vial. In some cases, these may represent a related individual to another specimen, e.g., an embryo or pouch young.

  • If the whole animal is the voucher specimen (i.e., no tissue saved separately), it should be catalogued as “whole animal” with the preservation noted, e.g., “frozen whole animal.” If the specimen will be stored in the tissue collection, this is noted during data entry.
  • If the tissue sample represents a whole animal (e.g., embryo, pouch young, neonate) that is associated with another specimen, it should be catalogued with a separate MVZ number from the parent. The MVZ numbers of parent and offspring should be cross-referenced both on the catalog card and in the database (see data entry manual).
  • All specimens and tissues for an accession should be catalogued before starting data entry, to ensure that the database for tissues is kept updated.
Labeling and installing tissues into the collection

Nalgene caps for the standard MVZ vials accommodate color-coded inserts that are used to label the collection. The collection is color-coded as follows: Birds - white; Mammals - yellow; Herps - green. This applies both to frozen and non-frozen tissues.

After specimens and tissues have been catalogued for an accession, tissue vial cap-inserts should be labeled with the MVZ catalog number and the collector initials/number as follows (using a VWR marker):

  • Write the MVZ number (e.g., 180000) just below the semi-circle hole in the insert.
  • Draw a line below that number.
  • Write the collector’s initials and number below the line, e.g., JLP 16500. Because the collector’s initials and number are written on the vial, adding this information on the cap insert allows matching of the cap (and correct MVZ number!) with the vial in case of inadvertent mixing.
  • If there are multiple vials for a given specimen, add a single dot above the hole for the first sample, 2 dots for the second sample, 3 dots for the third sample, etc.
  • If the multiple vials have different preservation methods, the first dot(s) should be given to frozen tissue(s) and subsequent dot(s) to non-frozen samples. This convention should correspond to the tissue sample number assigned in the database during data entry, e.g., 180000.1=frozen (single dot), 180000.2 = frozen (2 dots), 180000.3 = 95% etoh (3 dots).

Tissues should be installed into the collection soon after an accession is catalogued. This is important because tissues are arranged numerically within a box in the collection; if a later accession (i.e., with higher MVZ numbers) is installed first, samples will have to be shifted to accommodate the material.

Arrangement and Installation of Frozen tissues

Frozen tissues are arranged taxonomically, then numerically. The taxonomic arrangement is intended generally to mirror the specimen collections: orders and suborders are arranged phylogenetically, lower taxonomic classifications (family, subfamily, genus, species) are arranged alphabetically.

Each collection is housed in one of three upright freezers in Room 4123. The door of each freezer has a map with the general layout of the contents of that freezer. Some boxes house entire orders or families, others are broken down by genera or species. If a particular taxonomic group is stored in multiple boxes, the range of MVZ numbers contained in the box is written on the box label. This breakdown is based on representation in the collection and on expected growth. Empty racks and slots within racks are available in each freezer for expansion.

Find the rack that houses the group for the material you need to install, pull the rack out of the freezer, and find the box that houses the specific tissues for that group. Add the tissues in numerical order after the last sample for that group. Tissues are arranged numerically within a box regardless of the taxonomic breakdown, i.e., if multiple genera are stored in one box, the samples are still arranged strictly by MVZ number in that box.

Frozen tissues are stored in 81-place boxes. There are also boxes available without grids, which can be used for large vials or odd tissue containers (e.g., carnivore tissue in tin foil). Additional boxes, if necessary, are available in Room 4123A.

Each rack and box is labeled with the range of MVZ catalog numbers in that container. Go to the last box and add the tissues in numerical order. If you need to add a box, be sure to label it temporarily and correct the rack label if necessary.

Box labels are printed on the same cryogenic label paper as for frozen samples. Keep a list of new labels that are needed, and print labels when a full page of changes has accumulated. Also keep track of whether the map on the freezer door needs to be updated.

Arrangement and Installation of Non-frozen tissues

The non-frozen collection is arranged strictly numerically within the major vertebrate groups. Boxes for this collection have a 100-place grid instead of the 81-place grid used for frozen tissues.

Each rack and box is labeled with the range of MVZ catalog numbers in that container. Go to the last box and add the tissues in numerical order.

If you need to add a box, be sure to label it temporarily and correct the rack label if necessary. Box labels are printed on the same cryogenic label paper as for frozen samples. Keep a list of new labels that are needed, and print labels when a full page of changes has accumulated.


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