Novel insights into intra-cellular signalling involved in pemphigus vulgaris (PV), an autoimmune blistering disease of skin and mucous membranes, are now revealing new therapeutic approaches such as the chemical inhibition of PV-associated signals in conjunction with standard immunosuppressive therapy. However, extensive inhibition of signalling molecules that are required for normal tissue function and integrity may hamper this approach. Using a neonatal PV mouse model, we demonstrate that epidermal blistering can be prevented in a dose-dependent manner by clinically approved EGFR inhibitors erlotinib and lapatinib, but only up to approximately 50% of normal EGFR activity. At lower EGFR activity, blisters again aggravated and were highly exacerbated in mice with a conditional deletion of EGFR. Statistical analysis of the relation between EGFR activity and the extent of skin blistering revealed the best fit with a non-linear, V-shaped curve with a median break point at 52% EGFR activity (P = 0.0005). Moreover, lapatinib (a dual EGFR/ErbB2 inhibitor) but not erlotinib significantly reduced blistering in the oral cavity, suggesting that signalling mechanisms differ between PV predilection sites. Our results demonstrate that future clinical trials evaluating EGFR/ErbB2 inhibitors in PV patients must select treatment doses that retain a specific level of signal molecule activity. These findings may also be of relevance for cancer patients treated with EGFR inhibitors, for whom skin lesions due to extensive EGFR inhibition represent a major threat.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)