Collagen Abnormalities in Conjunctiva of Patients with Cicatricial Pemphigoid

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The purpose of this study was to analyze the distribution and types of collagen in the substantia propria of the conjunctiva of patients with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid (OCP). Biopsy specimens were collected from 10 patients with active OCP, five patients with active Behçet's disease, nine patients with atopic keratoconjunctivitis, five patients with chronic rosacea blepharoconjunctivitis, and six normal patients undergoing cataract surgery. Croystat tissue sections were cut and stained using an indirect immunofluorescence technique, employing a panel of primary antibodies directed against seven collagen types. Differences between OCP, Behçet's, and normal conjunctiva were seen in the staining for collagen types III, IV, and VII. The intensity of staining for type III collagen was increased in the substantia propria of OCP conjunctiva as compared to the other groups. The basement membrane zone (BMZ) of OCP patients was typically disrupted and fragmented in appearance when stained for type IV collagen, a finding not seen in the non-OCP specimens. The BMZ staining pattern for type VII collagen in OCP conjunctiva was even more disrupted than that seen for type IV collagen, particularly on the posterior side, which was thickened and reduplicated with short fibers extending into the superficial stroma. The production of type III collagen by fibroblasts of the substantia propria is a common feature of diseases associated with subepithelial fibrosis. The damage to the epithelial BMZ and the subsequent attempt at repair with aberrant type IV and VII collagen production are unique to conjunctiva affected by OCP.

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