The majority of human patients with pemphigus foliaceus (PF) have circulating IgG autoantibodies that target conformational epitopes on the desmosomal cadherin desmoglein-1 (dsg1). Limited studies using immunoblot techniques suggested that the principal autoantigen in dogs with PF might also be dsg1. It was the objective of this study to test this hypothesis. A comprehensive survey of canine PF sera was conducted using a novel screening strategy that detects conformational epitopes. This method consists of the ectopic expression of canine dsg1 at the surface of human 293T epithelial kidney cells and their live screening, i.e. prior to fixation. Out of seven control human PF sera that bound to canine epidermis, three (57%) contained IgG autoantibodies that recognized ectopically expressed canine dsg1 with a membrane and punctate pattern. Out of 83 canine PF sera only five (6%) contained IgG that recognized canine dsg1. Consistent with findings for human PF sera obtained in this study, autoantibody binding was conformation- and glycosylation- dependent as demonstrated by calcium chelation with EDTA and tunicamycin or wheat germ agglutinin treatment, respectively. In conclusion, these studies establish canine dsg1 as a minor autoantigen for canine PF. Antigenic epitopes appear to be conformation- and glycosylation-dependent.
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