Monopathogenic vs multipathogenic explanations of pemphigus pathophysiology

Exp Dermatol. 2016 Nov;25(11):839-846. doi: 10.1111/exd.13106.


This viewpoint highlights major, partly controversial concepts about the pathogenesis of pemphigus. The monopathogenic theory explains intra-epidermal blistering through the "desmoglein (Dsg) compensation" hypothesis, according to which an antibody-dependent disabling of Dsg 1- and/or Dsg 3-mediated cell-cell attachments of keratinocytes (KCs) is sufficient to disrupt epidermal integrity and cause blistering. The multipathogenic theory explains intra-epidermal blistering through the "multiple hit" hypothesis stating that a simultaneous and synchronized inactivation of the physiological mechanisms regulating and/or mediating intercellular adhesion of KCs is necessary to disrupt epidermal integrity. The major premise for a multipathogenic theory is that a single type of autoantibody induces only reversible changes, so that affected KCs can recover due to a self-repair. The damage, however, becomes irreversible when the salvage pathway and/or other cell functions are altered by a partnering autoantibody and/or other pathogenic factors. Future studies are needed to (i) corroborate these findings, (ii) characterize in detail patient populations with non-Dsg-specific autoantibodies, and (iii) determine the extent of the contribution of non-Dsg antibodies in disease pathophysiology.

Keywords: FcRn; acantholysis; antimitochondrial antibody; autoantibody; autoantigen; autoimmunity; desmogleins 1 and 3; pemphigus vulgaris.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Desmogleins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Pemphigus / etiology*


  • Desmogleins