Detection of mRNA of Telomerase Protein in Benign Naevi and Melanomas Using RNAscope

Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2020 Jan;28(1):36-41. doi: 10.1097/PAI.0000000000000690.


Telomerase is reactivated in most cancers and is possibly an early driver event in melanoma. Our aim was to test a novel in situ hybridization technique, RNAscope, for the detection of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) mRNA in archival formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue and to compare the mRNA expression of melanomas and benign naevi. Furthermore, we wanted to see if hTERT mRNA could be a diagnostic or prognostic marker of melanoma. In situ hybridization for the detection of hTERT mRNA was performed on FFPE tissue of 17 melanomas and 13 benign naevi. We found a significant difference in the expression of hTERT mRNA between melanomas and benign naevi (P<0.001) and the expression of hTERT mRNA correlated with Breslow thickness (ρ=0.56, P=0.0205) and the Ki67 proliferation index (ρ=0.72, P=0.001). This study showed that RNAscope was a reliable in situ hybridization method for the detection of hTERT mRNA in FFPE tissue of melanomas and benign naevi. hTERT mRNA was more abundantly expressed in melanomas compared with benign naevi, but cannot be used solely as a diagnostic marker due to an overlap in expression. The hTERT mRNA expression in melanomas correlated with the prognostic markers Breslow thickness and the Ki67 index indicating a prognostic potential of hTERT mRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma* / enzymology
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nevus* / enzymology
  • Nevus* / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms* / enzymology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Telomerase / metabolism*


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase