The quantity of nucleolar proteins nucleolin and protein B23 is related to cell doubling time in human cancer cells

Lab Invest. 1995 Oct;73(4):497-502.


Background: The quantity of the silver-stained nucleolar proteins (AgNOR proteins) measured in situ in cytohistologic preparations is related to the rapidity of cell proliferation. The term "AgNOR proteins" comprises several proteins. The relationship between the individual AgNOR protein amount and cell proliferating activity is not yet known. We studied the quantitative distribution of the individual AgNOR proteins, with specific attention to the two major AgNOR proteins, nucleolin and protein B23, in seven human cancer cell lines characterized by different cell doubling times.

Design: The doubling time of cancer cells was measured by counting the asynchronously growing cells at regular time intervals. The AgNOR proteins were quantified in situ, after a specific one-step staining procedure, by computerized image analysis. For the quantitative evaluation of nucleolin and protein B23, two methods were followed. Nuclear proteins after separation by SDS-PAGE were transferred onto nitrocellulose membranes and were either: 1) stained by the silver staining procedure for AgNOR proteins or 2) treated with anti-nucleolin and anti-protein B23 mAb followed by reaction with secondary Ab linked to peroxidase and revealed by chemiluminescence and autoradiography. In both cases, measurement of individual AgNOR protein and nucleolin and protein B23 amount was carried out using computerized densitometric analysis.

Results: Integrated density values of the silver-stained bands at 105 kDa (nucleolin) and 38 to 39 kDa (protein B23) represented, in all cell lines, more than 60% of the total silver-stained band value. A relationship was found between the densitometric values of silver-stained nucleolin and protein B23 and rapidity of cell proliferation (r = 0.85 and r = 0.86, respectively, p < 0.05). The values of nucleolin and protein B23 obtained using the Western blots were strictly related to the rapidity of cell proliferation (r = 0.93 and 0.96, respectively, p < 0.001). Finally, a good correlation was observed between the mean AgNOR protein area value, as defined in cytologic preparations in situ, and nucleolin and protein B23 amounts as evaluated in silver-stained nitrocellulose membranes (r = 0.92 and r = 0.90, respectively, p < 0.01) and in Western blots (r = 0.95 and r = 0.94, respectively, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: These data indicate that the quantitative changes of AgNOR proteins observed in cytohistologic preparations in situ mainly reflect the quantitative changes of nucleolin and protein B23 and demonstrate that nucleolin and protein B23 amounts are inversely related to cell doubling time in human cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Autoradiography
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Division
  • Colonic Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Neuroblastoma / chemistry*
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Nuclear Proteins / analysis*
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Nucleolus Organizer Region / chemistry
  • Nucleophosmin
  • Phosphoproteins / analysis*
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology
  • RNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Silver Staining
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • nucleolin
  • Nucleophosmin