Silver-stained nucleolar organizer regions (AgNORS) as a prognostic value in malignant melanoma

Aviv Barzilai, Iris Goldberg, Michael Yulash, Felix Pavlotsky, Avraham Zuckerman, Henri Trau, Esther Azizi, Juri Kopolovic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nucleolar organizer regions (NORs) are chromosomal loops of DNA and proteins involved in ribosomal synthesis. By silver staining, they can be identified as black dots (AgNORs) in the nuclei. Their size and number reflect cell and nuclear activity. Therefore, AgNOR count may correlate with the proliferative activity of tumors. In malignant melanoma, correlation between AgNOR count and the growth phase was found. However, the value of AgNORs in determining prognosis is disputable. Our purpose was to evaluate the role of AgNORs in predicting the biological behavior of melanoma. Paraffin-embedded sections of 30 cases of primary melanoma, 0.4-5 mm thick (mean, 1.6 mm) were stained with silver. Follow-up of all patients was at least 5 years. For each tumor, at least 50 cells were randomly selected for AgNOR count at a final magnification of 500, and the mean of AgNOR content was calculated. Sample parameters corresponded well to the epidemiology and the natural history of melanoma. AgNOR counts (0.78-4.26; mean, 1.42 ± 0.72) correlated with tumor thickness (p = 0.01); thus, most superficial tumors had low AgNOR counts, whereas most deep tumors (≤1.5 mm) showed high counts. Patients who had tumors with AgNOR counts lower than the median had longer disease-free interval (DFI) than did patients who had tumors with higher counts (p = 0.02). Furthermore, in a multivariate Cox analysis, AgNOR count was independent of tumor thickness in determining DFI (p = 0.05). Therefore, AgNORs may serve as a parameter to predict more accurately the progression of melanomas (mainly thin ones). Larger studies are needed in order to consolidate these preliminary results and to characterize AgNOR value further as a prognostic factor in melanoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-477
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Dermatopathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Disease-free interval
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Nucleolar organizer regions


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