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Arch Dermatol. 1999 Feb;135(2):143-8.

Desmoglein 3-ELISA: a pemphigus vulgaris-specific diagnostic tool.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Vienna Medical School, Austria.



Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is an autoimmune-blistering disease of the skin and mucous membranes caused by autoantibodies against desmoglein 3 (Dsg3), an epidermal desmosomal adhesion protein of the cadherin family. Cloning of the Dsg3 gene and expression of the protein in a native conformation enabled the recent development of a specific and sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the detection of PV autoantibodies.


To evaluate serum samples from patients with PV and other dermatologic diseases for anti-Dsg3 antibodies. To compare ELISA values with autoantibody titers obtained by classic indirect immunofluorescence (IIF).


Serum samples from patients with PV and various other bullous and nonbullous skin diseases were tested for anti-Dsg3 reactivity by ELISA.


Ambulatory and hospitalized patients from a university hospital.


Fifty-two serum samples from 11 patients with PV, and serum samples from 11 patients with bullous pemphigoid, 12 patients with other bullous diseases, 22 patients with various nonbullous skin disorders, and 10 healthy individuals were tested.


Forty-seven (98%) of 48 serum samples from patients with PV that were positive by IIF on monkey esophagus were also reactive by Dsg3-ELISA, whereas 4 of 4 IIF-negative PV serum samples showed no reactivity by ELISA. In addition, negative ELISA results were obtained from 11 of 11 serum samples from patients with bullous pemphigoid, 10 of 12 serum samples from patients with other bullous skin disorders, 7 of 9 serum samples from patients with autoimmune-connective tissue diseases, and 13 of 13 serum samples from patients with other nonbullous skin diseases. Interestingly, 1 patient with paraneoplastic pemphigus had positive ELISA results. There was a positive correlation (r = 0.654) between ELISA values and IIF titers within the whole population with PV. In addition, when multiple serum samples from 1 patient with PV sampled over a 2-year period were tested, ELISA reactivity paralleled both the IIF titers and the clinical course.


The Dsg3-ELISA is a sensitive, objective, and PV-specific test that should be considered as an adjunct test for the management of patients with PV.

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