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Br J Dermatol. 2005 Aug;153(2):310-8.

Hereditary mucoepithelial dysplasia: clinical, ultrastructural and genetic study of eight patients and literature review.

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  • 1Paediatric Dermatology Unit, Hôpital Pellegrin, Bordeaux, France.



Hereditary mucoepithelial dysplasia is a dominantly inherited disease, mainly characterized by chronic mucosal lesions associated with keratitis, non-scarring alopecia, keratosis pilaris and perineal intertrigo. Since the original report by Witkop, this condition has been considered to be a disorder of desmosome/gap junction formation, but there has been no ex vivo investigation of these components using genetic and immunolabelling techniques.


To perform light and immunoelectron microscopic studies, and partial genetic analysis on five patients in a family and three sporadic cases and to point out similarities of this rare disorder with chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis and other follicular keratosis syndromes, i.e. ichthyosis follicularis-alopecia-photophobia (IFAP), keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness (KID) and Siemens syndromes.


Biopsies from the involved oral mucosa and armpit skin of patient 1 were prepared for standard histopathology, electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry. Microsatellite genotyping was performed in three affected family members. Direct sequencing after polymerase chain reaction amplification of the entire coding region was performed.


A 14-year-old male had recurrent keratitis, widespread keratosis pilaris, perineal intertrigo, hypotrichosis and oral mucosal involvement. A similar phenotype was noted in four members of his family and in three sporadic cases. Histological examination of oral mucosa and skin samples showed a psoriasiform pattern, dyskeratotic features and cytoplasmic vacuoles. Expression of connexins (Cx), desmosomal, adherens junction and cytoskeleton proteins (Cx 26, 32 and 43, desmogleins 1 and 2, plakoglobin, desmoplakins I-II, plakophilin 1, beta-catenin, E-cadherin, keratins, beta-tubulin, vimentin and actin) was normal. Ultrastructural studies showed a reduced number of desmosomes. Dyskeratotic cells exhibited internalized gap junctions, long filamentous inclusions reactive with antikeratin antibodies, and bundles of perinuclear fibres resembling clear tonofilaments. Genetic analysis in the studied family excluded the desmosomal cadherins in chromosome 18q12 as candidate genes.


A diagnosis of hereditary mucoepithelial dysplasia should be strongly suggested by the triad of non-scarring alopecia, well-demarcated erythema of oral mucosa and psoriasiform perineal rash, after exclusion of the clinically related follicular keratosis syndromes. Defective expression of cytoskeleton elements and/or a modification of mechanisms regulating junction-cytoskeleton assembly may be primarily responsible for impaired epithelial cohesion.

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