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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2000 Jun;122(2):91-100.

Humoral and cellular autoimmunity in autoimmune bullous skin disorders.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universit├Ąt, Erlangen, Germany.


Autoimmune bullous skin diseases, such as pemphigus vulgaris (PV) and bullous pemphigoid (BP), are severe, frequently life-threatening skin disorders. Immunologically, they are characterized by the presence of serum autoantibodies (auto-Ab) targeting distinct adhesion molecules of the epidermis or dermoepidermal basement membrane zone. Antibody (Ab) binding interferes with the adhesive function of these molecules, leading to detachment and subsequently blister formation. PV is the classical example of an Ab-mediated autoimmune disease affecting epidermal adhesion. Auto-Ab against the desmosomal adhesion molecule, desmoglein 3 (Dsg3), are critical in the pathogenesis of this disease, since the transfer of serum IgG Ab reactive with Dsg3 into newborn mice induces a bullous skin disease resembling PV. Autoreactive T cell responses to Dsg3 may be critical in the pathogenesis of PV because: (1) Ab production generally requires T cell help; (2) the involvement of CD4+ T lymphocytes in PV has been suggested by the strong association with distinct HLA class II alleles, and (3) T cell recognition of epitopes of Dsg3 may be crucial for the initiation and perpetuation of the production of Dsg3-specific auto-Ab by B cells. In PV and BP, autoreactive CD4+ T cells recognize distinct epitopes of the extracellular portions of Dsg3 and BP180 [BP antigen 2 (BPAG2) or type XVII collagen], respectively, and produce preferentially T helper type 2 (TH2) cytokines. Auto-Ab of the TH2-dependent IgG4 subtype are preferentially seen in the active stages of both PV and BP, while auto-Ab of the TH1-dependent IgG1 subclass are predominant during the chronic course of these disorders. These observations suggest that autoreactive TH2 cells may provide targets to specifically modulate the T cell-dependent production of pathogenic auto-Ab in these disorders.

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