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Ultrastructure and chromogranin A immunogold labelling of ECL cell carcinoids


  • Received 9 September 2004.

    Accepted 13 May 2005.

Reidar Fossmark, Department of Medicine, St. Olavs Hospital HF, Trondheim University Hospital, Olav Kyrres gate 17, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway. e-mail:


Poorly differentiated neuroendocrine cells can be difficult to recognise. Sensitive methods are needed to label cells that have lost their ultrastructural features and have reduced concentrations of neuroendocrine markers. In gastric neoplasms, enterochromaffin-like cells might dedifferentiate and lose their characteristic granules and secretory vesicles, making detection of such cells increasingly difficult. However, chromogranin A (CgA) immunogold labelling could provide sensitive and specific detection of gastric neuroendocrine cells. We present ultrastructural findings, CgA immunogold labelling as well as conventional immunohistochemical findings of two human enterochromaffin-like cell carcinoids. Electron-dense granules of poorly differentiated cells were less intensely labelled than granules in well-differentiated cells. Granules with atypical shape as well as punctuate granules previously found in neuroendocrine neoplasms were also CgA labelled. The CgA labelling efficacy after antigen retrieval in an alkaline solution was higher after heating in an autoclave at 135 °C compared to a microwave at 100 °C for both granules and secretory vesicles without significant deterioration of the ultrastructure. In conclusion, the use of CgA immunogold labelling could ensure a specific classification of cells with neuroendocrine granules and be a supplement to immunohistochemical examination of poorly differentiated tumours.