Anti-desmoglein (Dsg) 1 and Dsg3 IgG autoantibodies in pemphigus foliaceus and pemphigus vulgaris cause blisters through loss of desmosomal adhesion. It is controversial whether blister formation is due to direct inhibition of Dsg, intracellular signaling events causing desmosome destabilization, or both. Recent studies show that heterophilic binding between Dsg and desmocollin (Dsc) is the fundamental adhesive unit of desmosomes. To eliminate cellular contributions to potential pathogenicity of pemphigus antibodies, bead assays coated with recombinant Dsg1, Dsc1, Dsg3, or Dsc3 ectodomains were developed. A mixture of Dsg beads and Dsc beads formed large aggregates, confirming that the heterophilic binding is dominant. The pathogenic anti-Dsg1 and anti-Dsg3 mAbs, which bind the transadhesive interface, blocked the aggregation of Dsg1/Dsc1 and Dsg3/Dsc3 beads, respectively, whereas nonpathogenic mAbs did not. All sera tested from eight patients with pemphigus foliaceus and eight patients with mucosal pemphigus vulgaris with active disease inhibited the adhesion of Dsg1/Dsc1 and Dsg3/Dsc3 beads, respectively. When paired sera obtained from seven patients with pemphigus foliaceus and six patients with pemphigus vulgaris in active disease and remission were compared, the former inhibited aggregation better than the latter. These findings strongly suggest that steric hindrance of heterophilic transinteraction between Dsg and Dsc is important for disease pathology in both pemphigus foliaceus and pemphigus vulgaris.
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