This study describes the effect of wet autoclave pretreatment of routinely formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues on silver-stained nucleolar organizer-region-associated proteins (AgNORs) staining. The treatment of sections at superheated steam temperature (120 degrees C) before silver incubation leads to a significantly better discrimination of single-interphase AgNORs. Counting "black dots" both by eye and by means of a computer-aided image-analyzing system revealed considerably higher AgNOR mean numbers per nucleus in all pretreated cases when compared with the respective untreated controls. However, mean AgNOR numbers increased after autoclave pretreatment in a nonlinear manner (pairwise comparison by means of Spearman's Rank correlation coefficient: rho = 0.5), whereas measurement of the AgNOR area was less influenced by autoclave pretreatment (rho = 0.8). It is concluded that wet autoclave pretreatment of routinely formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded archival material should be applied before AgNOR staining, particularly when quantitation of AgNORs involves counting procedures.