Herpes gestationis (HG) is a rare pregnancy-associated disease. The aim of this study was to compare various immunohistochemical and immunobiochemical techniques with respect to their diagnostic sensitivity for HG. We studied 43 HG sera; only half of these reacted with the basement membrane zone (BMZ) with both indirect immunofluorescence (IF) and complement IF of normal human skin. 81% of the sera reacted with the epidermal side of 1 M NaCl-split skin. In general, titers of anti-BMZ antibodies in HG sera were lower than those in bullous pemphigoid (BP) sera. Immunoblot analysis of human epidermal extracts showed that 51% of HG sera recognized the 180 kD BP antigen (BP180) and 26% recognized the 230 kD BP antigen (BP230). We also studied the reactivity of HG sera with fusion proteins representing either the NC16a domain of human BP180 or the C-terminal region of mouse BP230. Whereas 79% of HG sera reacted with the BP180 fusion protein, only 5% recognized the BP230 fusion protein. Our results suggest that indirect IF of 1 M NaCl-split skin and immunoblotting of a fusion protein representing the BP180 NC16a domain are more sensitive techniques for the diagnosis of HG than conventional and complement IF or immunoblotting of crude epidermal extracts.
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