It is accepted that aldehyde-based fixation of cells can affect immunodetection of antigens; however, the effects of tissue processing on immunodetection have not been analyzed systematically. We investigated the effects of aldehyde-based fixation and the various cumulative steps of tissue processing on immunohistochemical detection of specific antigens. DU145 (prostate) and SKOV3 (ovarian) cancer cell lines were cultured as monolayers on microscope slides. Immunohistochemical detection of Ki67/MIB-1 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was evaluated after various fixation times in 10% neutral buffered formalin and after each of the several cumulative steps of tissue processing. The effect of antigen retrieval (AR) was evaluated concomitantly as an additional variable. Our results indicate that in addition to fixation, each of the tissue processing steps has effects on immunorecognition of the epitopes recognized by these antibodies. Extensive dehydration through ethanols to absolute ethanol had only modest effects, except for the detection of Ki67/MIB-1 in SKOV-3 cells where the effect was stronger. In general, however, establishment of a hydrophobic environment by xylene resulted in the greatest decrease in immunorecognition. AR compensated for most, but not all, of the losses in staining following fixation and exposure to xylene; however, AR gave consistent results for most steps of tissue processing, which suggests that AR also should be used for staining PCNA. The cellular variations that were observed indicate that the effects of fixation and other steps of tissue processing may depend on how antigens are packaged by specific cells. © Biological Stain Commission 2009.