Apoptosis is not required for acantholysis in pemphigus vulgaris

Enno Schmidt, Judith Gutberlet, Daniela Siegmund, Daniela Berg, Harald Wajant, Jens Waschke*

*Corresponding author for this work
38 Citations (Scopus)


The autoimmune blistering skin disease pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is caused primarily by autoantibodies against desmosomal cadherins. It was reported that apoptosis can be detected in pemphigus skin lesions and that apoptosis can be induced by PV-IgG in cultured keratinocytes. However, the role of apoptosis in PV pathogenesis is unclear at present. In this study, we provide evidence that apoptosis is not required for acantholysis in PV. In skin lesions from two PV patients, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) positivity, but not cleaved caspase-3, was detected in single keratinocytes in some lesions but was completely absent in other lesions from the same patients. In cultures of human keratinocytes (HaCaT and normal human epidermal keratinocytes), PV-IgG from three different PV patients caused acantholysis, fragmented staining of Dsg 3 staining, and cytokeratin retraction in the absence of nuclear fragmentation, TUNEL positivity, and caspase-3 cleavage and hence in the absence of detectable apoptosis. To further rule out the contribution of apoptotic mechanisms, we used two different approaches that are effective to block apoptosis induced by various stimuli. Inhibition of caspases by z-VAD-fmk as well as overexpression of Fas-associated death domain-like interleukin-1β-converting enzyme (FLICE)-like inhibitory proteins FLIPL and FLIPS to inhibit receptor-mediated apoptosis did not block PV-IgG-induced effects, indicating that apoptosis was not required. Taken together, we conclude that apoptosis is not a prerequisite for skin blistering in PV but may occur secondary to acantholysis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)C162-C172
Publication statusPublished - 01.2009

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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