Genetic Associations and Differential mRNA Expression Levels of Host Genes Suggest a Viral Trigger for Endemic Pemphigus Foliaceus

Valéria Bumiller Bini Hoch, Ana Flávia Kohler, Danillo G. Augusto, Sara Cristina Lobo-Alves, Danielle Malheiros, Gabriel Adelman Cipolla, Angelica Beate Winter Boldt, Karin Braun-Prado, Michael Wittig, Andre Franke, Claudia Pföhler, Margitta Worm, Nina van Beek, Matthias Goebeler, Miklós Sárdy, Saleh Ibrahim, Hauke Busch, Enno Schmidt, Jennifer Elisabeth Hundt, Patrícia Savio de Araujo-SouzaMaria Luiza Petzl-Erler*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


The long search for the environmental trigger of the endemic pemphigus foliaceus (EPF, fogo selvagem) has not yet resulted in any tangible findings. Here, we searched for genetic associations and the differential expression of host genes involved in early viral infections and innate antiviral defense. Genetic variants could alter the structure, expression sites, or levels of the gene products, impacting their functions. By analyzing 3063 variants of 166 candidate genes in 227 EPF patients and 194 controls, we found 12 variants within 11 genes associated with differential susceptibility (p < 0.005) to EPF. The products of genes TRIM5, TPCN2, EIF4E, EIF4E3, NUP37, NUP50, NUP88, TPR, USP15, IRF8, and JAK1 are involved in different mechanisms of viral control, for example, the regulation of viral entry into the host cell or recognition of viral nucleic acids and proteins. Only two of nine variants were also associated in an independent German cohort of sporadic PF (75 patients, 150 controls), aligning with our hypothesis that antiviral host genes play a major role in EPF due to a specific virus–human interaction in the endemic region. Moreover, CCL5, P4HB, and APOBEC3G mRNA levels were increased (p < 0.001) in CD4+ T lymphocytes of EPF patients. Because there is limited or no evidence that these genes are involved in autoimmunity, their crucial role in antiviral responses and the associations that we observed support the hypothesis of a viral trigger for EPF, presumably a still unnoticed flavivirus. This work opens new frontiers in searching for the trigger of EPF, with the potential to advance translational research that aims for disease prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number879
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 05.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Centers: Center for Research on Inflammation of the Skin (CRIS)
  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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