Nucleolar Organiser Regions

  • J. Crocker
Part of the Current Topics in Pathology book series (CT PATHOLOGY, volume 82)


Nucleolar organiser regions (NORs) are structures of central importance in the transcription of nucleic acid to protein. Thus, by means of hybridisation methodology, these regions have been shown to be loops of ribosomal DNA (rDNA) which transcribe to ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and thus ultimately to ribosomes and thence protein. In simple terms, the nucleolus may be regarded as a “ribosome factory”. The NORs are transcribed to rRNA under the influence of RNA polymerase I. In view of the close relationship between NORs and cell activity, their size or number might reflect or predict cell proliferation, transformation or even overt malignancy. This exciting prospect has recently received extensive attention from pathologists and the techniques for NOR study are largely wholly novel to histopathologists. However, this reflects the sad truth that over-specialisation in science has led to lack of interdisciplinary communication (Anon 1987). In fact, NORs have been known to molecular biologists and cytogeneticists for many years. NORs reside on the short arms of the acrocentric human chromosomes 13, 14, 15, 21 and 22 (Fig. 1). Cytogeneticists have made use of the fact for over a decade for the investigation and identification of certain trisomies, notably that of chromosome 21, where NORs appear in inappropriate sites in metaphase spreads.


Pleomorphic Adenoma Nucleolus Organizer Region Dense Fibrillar Component Fibrillar Centre Nuclear Profile 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Crocker

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