Aim—To evaluate the expression of ribosomal cistrons in human thyroid epithelial cells (TECs) of patients with Grave's disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and benign and malignant tumours of the thyroid gland.
Methods—TEC nucleoli were investigated in fine needle biopsy specimens from 10 controls, 39 patients with Grave's disease, 15 with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, 56 with benign, and 15 with malignant tumours of the thyroid. A one step silver staining method was applied. In most cases serum concentrations of thyroxine and triiodothyronine as well as goitre size were determined. In every case 100 TECs were evaluated for the mean numbers of nucleoli and for the average number of argyrophilic nucleolar organiser regions (AgNORs) per nucleus.
Results—NORs were activated in all patients, but not in controls. The numbers of AgNORs in patients with Grave's disease were closely correlated with thyroxine or triiodothyronine, or both, concentrations and with the size of the thyroid. In patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis about 30% of TECs nucleoli did not contain AgNORs, whereas others were heavily impregnated with silver. Compared with controls and benign tumours, the nucleoli of carcinomatous TECs were larger and irregular in shape. The mean number of AgNORs per nucleus in malignant cells was higher than that in their benign counterparts.
Conclusions—The mechanism by which NORs are activated in TECs varies depending on the type of lesion. The higher AgNOR score in TECs from malignant tumours can be used to distinguish them from their benign counterparts.
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