Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is an antibody-mediated autoimmune disease of the skin and mucous membranes. Desmoglein-3 (dsg-3) expressed in the suprabasal layer of the skin serves as an autoantigen in PV. Passive transfer of sera, either from patients with PV or from experimental animals immunized with a recombinant human dsg3 (hdsg3) into neonatal BALB/c mice results in blister formation, suggesting strongly that there is significant cross-reactivity between the mouse dsg3 (mdsg3) and the hdsg3. However, efforts to induce disease in adult mice through active immunization using hdsg-3 have not been successful, suggesting that the epitopes required for the induction of pathogenic antibodies in adult mice might not be present in hdsg3. Therefore, in this study, we expressed a full-length mdsg3 in insect cells and compared its serological reactivity with that of the hdsg3 using species specific polyclonal sera and a panel of seven monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) with unique binding specificities to hdsg3. Studies using sera demonstrated a considerable cross-reactivity, while studies using MoAbs exhibited specific epitope differences between the two proteins. Because of these differences, we reasoned that immunization with mdsg3 might induce disease in adult mice. Immunization of four strains of mice (i.e. BALB/c, DBA/1, HRS/J and SJL/J) with mdsg3 resulted in considerable antibody response, but failed to induce lesions. However, sera from immunized BALB/c mice induced acantholysis of neonatal mouse skin in vitro. These studies indicated that our inability to induce lesions in adult mice through active immunization is not due to differences in the ability of mouse and human dsg3 to induce acantholytic antibodies, but due probably to structural differences between adult and neonatal mouse skin. Alternatively, immunization with a combination of dsg3 protein along with other proteins might be necessary to induce pemphigus disease in adult mice. Nevertheless, our current studies show that molecular mechanisms leading to the production of acantholytic antibodies in mice can now be studied using homologous mdsg3.
- Pemphigus vulgaris
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