Variation of the epidermal expression of glucocorticoid receptor-beta as potential predictive marker of bullous pemphigoid outcome
Bullous pemphigoid (BP) is the most common autoimmune subepidermal blistering disease in Western countries. Although topical and/or systemic glucocorticoids treatment efficacy is widely recognized, up to 30% of patients with BP may undergo a relapse during the first year of treatment. We investigated the protein expression of the total glucocorticoid receptor and GRβ isoform in the skin biopsy specimens from patients with BP and wondered whether such investigation at baseline provided a tool to predict disease outcome. Total GR and GRβ protein expressions were detected by immunohistochemistry at baseline on 12 patients who later relapse and 11 patients who remained on remission in comparison with 14 control patients. The expression of GRβ in the epidermis of patients with BP who later relapse was significantly higher than that in the epidermis of patients with BP controlled upon corticosteroid treatment, which was also higher than control patients. Thus, our results suggest that increased protein expression of GRβ in skin epithelial cells is predictive of reduced steroid treatment efficacy, and therefore of increased risk of disease relapse in patients with BP.