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J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Jan;134(1):68-76. doi: 10.1038/jid.2013.224. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

MAPKAP kinase 2 (MK2)-dependent and -independent models of blister formation in pemphigus vulgaris.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.
Institute of Biochemistry, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is an autoimmune blistering disease characterized by autoantibodies to the keratinocyte adhesion protein desmoglein 3 (Dsg3). Previous studies suggest that PV pathogenesis involves p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent and -independent pathways. However, p38 is a difficult protein to study and therapeutically target because it has four isoforms and multiple downstream effectors. In this study, we identify MAPKAP (mitogen-activated protein kinase-activated protein) kinase 2 (MK2) as a downstream effector of p38 signaling in PV and describe MK2-dependent and -independent mechanisms of blister formation using passive transfer of human anti-Dsg IgG4 mAbs to neonatal mice. In human keratinocytes, PV mAbs activate MK2 in a dose-dependent manner. MK2 is also activated in human pemphigus skin blisters, causing translocation of MK2 from the nucleus to the cytosol. Small-molecule inhibition of MK2 and silencing of MK2 expression block PV mAb-induced Dsg3 endocytosis in human keratinocytes. In addition, small-molecule inhibition and genetic deletion of p38α and MK2 inhibit spontaneous but not induced suprabasal blisters by PV mAbs in mouse passive transfer models. Collectively, these data suggest that MK2 is a key downstream effector of p38 that can modulate PV autoantibody pathogenicity. MK2 inhibition may be a valuable adjunctive therapy for control of pemphigus blistering.

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