Recently, a previously unrecognized autoantibody mediated blistering disease, paraneoplastic pemphigus has been described. Paraneoplastic pemphigus is associated with lymphoid malignancies, thymomas, and poorly differentiated sarcomas. Serum of affected patients contain pathogenic autoantibodies that immunoprecipitate from normal keratinocytes a characteristic complex of four polypeptides with M(r) of 250, 230, 210, and 190 kD. As our preliminary studies indicated that the 250-kD and the 210-kD antigens comigrated with desmoplakins I and II, we investigated the possibility that autoantibodies against the desmoplakins were a component of this autoimmune syndrome. 11 sera from affected patients were tested by indirect immunofluorescence against desmosome containing tissues, immunoprecipitation of metabolically labeled keratinocytes, and Western immunoblotting of desmoplakins I and II that had been purified to homogeneity from pig tongue epithelium. By indirect immunofluorescence, 9 of 11 sera showed strong binding to epithelial and nonepithelial desmosomes, and 2 were weakly reactive. All 11 immunoprecipitated 250- and 210-kD bands of variable intensity that comigrated with bands identified by a murine monoclonal antidesmoplakin antibody, and immunoblotting confirmed binding of the serum autoantibodies to purified desmoplakins. This demonstrates that paraneoplastic pemphigus is the first human autoimmune syndrome in which autoantibodies against the desmoplakins are a prominent component of the humoral autoimmune response.
J R Oursler, R S Labib, L Ariss-Abdo, T Burke, E J O'Keefe, G J Anhalt