Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is a cutaneous autoimmune disease characterized by blister formation in the suprabasilar layers of skin and mucosae and anti-desmoglein-3 (Dsg3) autoantibodies bound to the surface of lesional keratinocytes and circulating in the serum of patients. This disease can be reproduced in neonatal mice by passive transfer of patients' IgG, indicating that humoral immunity plays an important role in the pathogenesis of PV. Currently, the role of T lymphocytes in the development of PV is not clear. Here, we report that three immunoreactive segments of the ectodomain of Dsg3 specifically induced proliferation of T cells from PV patients. We found that T lymphocytes from 13 out of 14 patients responded to at least one of three Dsg3 peptides. T cells from controls and other patient groups did not respond to these Dsg3 peptides. The major T cell population stimulated by these Dsg3 peptides was CD4 positive. Dsg3-specific T cell lines and clones were developed and were shown to express a CD4 positive memory T cell phenotype. Upon stimulation, these cell lines and clones secreted a Th2-like cytokine profile. The Dsg3 responses of these T cells were restricted to HLA-DR, and not -DQ and -DP, of the major histocompatibility complex. This information will help to elucidate the cellular immune abnormalities leading to production of pathogenic IgG autoantibodies in patients with PV.
M S Lin, S J Swartz, A Lopez, X Ding, M A Fernandez-Vina, P Stastny, J A Fairley, L A Diaz