Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy and herpes gestationis: comparison of granulated cell proteins in tissue and serum

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Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP) and herpes gestationis (HG) are pregnancy-related dermatoses of unknown aetiology with eosinophil infiltration which, at early stages, may show similar clinical and histopathological features. To determine the relative contributions of eosinophils, neutrophils and mast cells to the pathogenesis of PEP and HG through deposition of granule proteins, we studied tissue and serum from 15 patients with PEP and 10 with HG. Using indirect immunofluorescence with antibodies to human eosinophil granule major basic protein (MBP), eosinophil-derived neurotoxin (EDN), eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), neutrophil elastase and mast cell tryptase, we determined and compared cellular and extracellular staining patterns in lesional skin biopsy specimens and, using immunoassay, measured MBP, EDN, and ECP in patients' sera. Eosinophil infiltration and extracellular protein deposition of all three eosinophil granule proteins were present in both PEP and HG indicating a pathogenic role for eosinophils in both diseases. Staining for eosinophil granule proteins was especially prominent in urticarial lesions and around blisters in HG. EDN and ECP serum levels in PEP and ECP serum levels in HG were significantly increased compared with those in normal pregnant and normal nonpregnant serum. Neutrophils were more prominent in HG specimens than in PEP specimens; extracellular neutrophil elastase was minimally present and similar in both diseases. Mast cell numbers and extracellular tryptase deposition did not differ between the two diseases and did not differ from mast cell counts in skin of normal pregnant women. This study shows that eosinophil granule proteins are deposited extracellularly in tissue and are increased in serum in both PEP and HG. Moreover, eosinophil involvement in the two diseases is more consistent than neutrophil and mast cell involvement. Comparatively, tissue eosinophil infiltration and extracellular protein deposition is more extensive in HG than in PEP, suggesting that eosinophil involvement is greater in the pathogenesis of HG than PEP and similar to that found in bullous pemphigoid.

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