Mechanisms of Disease: Pemphigus and Bullous Pemphigoid

Annu Rev Pathol. 2016 May 23:11:175-97. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-012615-044313. Epub 2016 Feb 22.


Pemphigus and bullous pemphigoid are autoantibody-mediated blistering skin diseases. In pemphigus, keratinocytes in epidermis and mucous membranes lose cell-cell adhesion, and in pemphigoid, the basal keratinocytes lose adhesion to the basement membrane. Pemphigus lesions are mediated directly by the autoantibodies, whereas the autoantibodies in pemphigoid fix complement and mediate inflammation. In both diseases, the autoantigens have been cloned and characterized; pemphigus antigens are desmogleins (cell adhesion molecules in desmosomes), and pemphigoid antigens are found in hemidesmosomes (which mediate adhesion to the basement membrane). This knowledge has enabled diagnostic testing for these diseases by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and dissection of various pathophysiological mechanisms, including direct inhibition of cell adhesion, antibody-induced internalization of antigen, and cell signaling. Understanding these mechanisms of disease has led to rational targeted therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: autoantibody; autoimmune; blistering; skin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Pemphigoid, Bullous / immunology*
  • Pemphigoid, Bullous / pathology*
  • Pemphigus / immunology*
  • Pemphigus / pathology*