Antibodies against the extracellular domain of bullous pemphigoid antigen 2 (BPAG2) are thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of bullous pemphigoid (BP), the most frequent autoimmune bullous disease of the skin. Autoreactive T cell responses to BPAG2 were investigated in 16 BP patients and 24 healthy controls by coculture of PBMC with two recombinant BPAG2 proteins (extracellular domain of BPAG2). Primary in vitro T cell responses to BPAG2 were observed in 10/12 BP patients expressing the BP-associated HLA-DQB1*0301 allele and 8/10 DQB1*0301 positive healthy individuals. DQB1*0301 also restricted three autoreactive T cell lines from two BP patients and a healthy donor. In contrast, PBMC from 14 normal patients carrying HLA class II alleles other than DQB1*0301 were not stimulated by BPAG2. Autoreactive BPAG2-specific CD4(+) T cell lines and clones from five BP patients produced both Th1 and Th2 cytokines, whereas three autoreactive T cell lines from three DQB1*0301 positive normal patients produced exclusively IFN-gamma. The absence of BPAG2-specific Th2 cells in healthy individuals strongly suggests that autoreactive Th2 responses to BPAG2 are restricted to BP patients and may thus be critical in the pathogenesis of BP.
L Büdinger, L Borradori, C Yee, R Eming, S Ferencik, H Grosse-Wilde, H F Merk, K Yancey, M Hertl