Pemphigus erythematosus, initially described as a combination of pemphigus with lupus erythematosus, and pemphigus foliaceus are now frequently considered localized and generalized variants of superficial pemphigus. Yet diagnostic criteria for pemphigus erythematosus remain controversial. Distinct from pemphigus foliaceus, pemphigus erythematosus displays immune depositions at the dermal-epidermal junction, which suggests additional immunopathological mechanisms. We present three patients with clinical and histopathologic signs of superficial pemphigus, who all exhibited an immunomorphology characteristic of pemphigus erythematosus. Complement depositions in a granular-linear fashion were consistently found at the dermal-epidermal junction besides in vivo bound and circulating antikeratinocyte cell-surface autoantibodies. Histopathology showed subcorneal acantholysis, and all sera contained antidesmoglein 1 but not antidesmoglein 3 autoantibodies detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Additional autoantibodies against a 230-kDa protein and against a 190-kDa protein comigrating with bullous pemphigoid antigen 1 (BP230) and periplakin, respectively, were present in all the patients' sera. As two sera specifically reacted with BP230 by ELISA, the presence of BP230-specific autoantibodies could be associated with dermal-epidermal immune staining in these patients. In pemphigus erythematosus, dermal-epidermal immune staining is generally attributed to the deposition of immune complexes, while the presence of BP230-specific autoantibodies has not been reported in this disease previously. Perhaps, the unique autoantibody profile of the patients in the study permits discrimination between patients with superficial pemphigus that display additional dermal-epidermal immune staining from those with conventional pemphigus foliaceus on a molecular basis. Further studies will be required to substantiate the frequency of this occurrence and to unravel its pathogenic significance.
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