Animal model for dermolytic mechanobullous disease: sheep with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa lack collagen VII

J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Apr;96(4):452-8. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12470130.


A severe congenital mechanobullous disease with dermolytic blistering and recessive inheritance is described in sheep. The affected animals of wild and inbred flocks of the breed Weisses Alpenschaf (WAS) have blisters of skin, oral mucosa, tongue, and esophagus at birth or within the first week of life. Exungulation occurs early, and severe erosions in the mouth lead to difficulty in feeding. Electron microscopic examination revealed sub-lamina densa splitting in natural or fresh friction blisters and absence of identifiable anchoring fibrils in clinically uninvolved skin. Antigen mapping localized laminin and collagen IV to the blister roof. Indirect immunofluorescence staining with antibodies to collagen VII, the major structural component of the anchoring fibrils, demonstrated a complete absence of reaction in clinically uninvolved tissues of the affected sheep, whereas in normal sheep a strong linear fluorescence was seen at the epithelial-mesenchymal basement membrane zone. Dermal extracts of normal sheep contained intact collagen VII, but epidermal and dermal extracts from the affected sheep lacked this collagen or its fragments in immunoblotting experiments. Based on genetic, clinical, ultrastructural, and immunochemical findings, the sheep disorder corresponds to the severe mutilating subtype of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa in humans and can be used as an animal model to investigate the human disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / analysis
  • Collagen / deficiency
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa / pathology*
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa Dystrophica / genetics
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Pedigree
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / ultrastructure


  • Antigens
  • Collagen