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J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Sep;129(9):2156-66. doi: 10.1038/jid.2009.61. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

Pathogenic epitopes of autoantibodies in pemphigus reside in the amino-terminal adhesive region of desmogleins which are unmasked by proteolytic processing of prosequence.

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Department of Dermatology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


Pemphigus targets desmogleins (Dsgs), which are thought to be synthesized as inactive precursor proteins with prosequences that are cleaved by substilisin-like proprotein convertases, such as furin, to yield mature adhesive molecules. We hypothesized that some pemphigus pathogenic antibodies (Abs), which presumably interfere with adhesion, only bind the mature form. A pathogenic and three non-pathogenic anti-Dsg1 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) isolated from a pemphigus foliaceus (PF) patient, were used for immunoprecipitation and ELISA of recombinant precursor and mature Dsg1. The pathogenic Ab binds mature Dsg1, whereas non-pathogenic Abs bind either only the precursor or both the precursor and mature Dsg1. Competition ELISA showed that the majority of PF sera target the same or nearby epitopes defined by the pathogenic anti-Dsg1 mAb that blocked >20% binding of 29 out of 40 PF sera. Furthermore, the immunoreactivity of 45 PF sera against the mature Dsg1 was 3.2 fold stronger than that against the precursor Dsg1 by ELISA. Similar results were observed in anti-Dsg3 Abs in 47 pemphigus vulgaris sera, suggesting that most pemphigus sera target epitopes that are unmasked by proteolytic processing. These findings support the idea that at least some pathogenic pemphigus autoantibodies induce the loss of cell adhesion by directly binding the trans-interaction site of Dsgs.

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