Metastatic melanoma: the spectrum of ultrastructural morphology

Ultrastructural Pathology
M T Mazur, A L Katzenstein


The fine structure of 26 metastatic melanomas, including 13 pigmented and 13 amelanotic tumors, as studied to define ultrastructural criteria for diagnosis. Several important features in addition to melanosome granules were identified. Dendritic cytoplasmic processes were seen in 25 of the 26 cases, cell clusters formed by concentric aggregates of several cells and their processes were present in 18, and microvilli were found on cell surfaces in all cases. The cytoplasm was complex, containing numerous mitochondria, Golgi systems, endoplasmic reticulum, nonspecific filaments, and microtubules. Nuclear morphology was variable. Basement membranes and cell junctions including desmosomes were often encountered, and some melanomas shared features with Schwann cells, including complex membrane interdigitations. All tumors contained melanosomes, although the classic forms were frequently difficult to identify and abnormal variant forms often predominated. Knowledge of the variant melanosome morphology and an understanding of the other fine structural features of malignant melanocytes can help identify those cases that lack classic premelanosome granules.


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