Characterization of the antibody response in oesophageal cicatricial pemphigoid

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Cicatricial pemphigoid (CP) is a subepidermal, autoimmune bullous dermatosis. It is classified as a clinical subset of bullous pemphigoid (BP). However, it differs from BP in some significant ways: (i) in CP mucosal involvement with clinical scarring is prominent; (ii) there is a prominent IgA class antibody response alone or in addition to the IgG class antibody response; and (iii) there is a heterogeneous antibody response in CP, whereas in BP the majority of the antibodies are directed against a 180-kDa hemidesmosomal protein, bullous pemphigoid antigen 2 (BPAg2). Oesophageal involvement in CP is a rare, but often devastating manifestation. In this study we examined the humoral autoimmune response in oesophageal CP, in an attempt to characterize the autoantibody reactivity profile. We used direct and indirect immunofluorescence and Western immunoblotting using normal human skin and oesophagus substrates. We studied patient sera over time in order to search for evidence of epitope spreading in these patients. All patients had positive direct immunofluorescence of perilesional oesophageal epithelium. All patients had positive circulating antibasement membrane zone autoantibody titres. There was a significant IgA class in addition to an IgG class autoantibody response. IgA and IgG antibodies demonstrated significant reactivity with BPAg2 and the 97 kDa linear IgA disease antigen on Western immunoblot suggesting intraprotein epitope spreading. There was no evidence of interprotein epitope spreading over time. Our findings suggest that there is a heterogeneous antibody response in oesophageal CP with the predominant antigen being BPAg2.

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