Correlation of systemic involvement and presence of pathological skin calcification assessed by ex vivo nonlinear microscopy in Pseudoxanthoma elasticum

Arch Dermatol Res. 2023 Sep;315(7):1897-1908. doi: 10.1007/s00403-023-02557-x. Epub 2023 Feb 27.


Pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE (OMIM 264800)) is an autosomal recessive connective tissue disorder mainly caused by mutations in the ABCC6 gene. PXE results in ectopic calcification primarily in the skin, eye and blood vessels that can lead to blindness, peripheral arterial disease and stroke. Previous studies found correlation between macroscopic skin involvement and severe ophthalmological and cardiovascular complications. This study aimed to investigate correlation between skin calcification and systemic involvement in PXE. Ex vivo nonlinear microscopy (NLM) imaging was performed on formalin fixed, deparaffinized, unstained skin sections to assess the extent of skin calcification. The area affected by calcification (CA) in the dermis and density of calcification (CD) was calculated. From CA and CD, calcification score (CS) was determined. The number of affected typical and nontypical skin sites were counted. Phenodex + scores were determined. The relationship between the ophthalmological, cerebro- and cardiovascular and other systemic complications and CA, CD and CS, respectively, and skin involvement were analyzed. Regression models were built for adjustment to age and sex. We found significant correlation of CA with the number of affected typical skin sites (r = 0.48), the Phenodex + score (r = 0.435), extent of vessel involvement (V-score) (r = 0.434) and disease duration (r = 0.48). CD correlated significantly with V-score (r = 0.539). CA was significantly higher in patients with more severe eye (p = 0.04) and vascular (p = 0.005) complications. We found significantly higher CD in patients with higher V-score (p = 0.018), and with internal carotid artery hypoplasia (p = 0.045). Significant correlation was found between higher CA and the presence of macula atrophy (β = - 0.44, p = 0.032) and acneiform skin changes (β = 0.40, p = 0.047). Based on our results, the assessment of skin calcification pattern with nonlinear microscopy in PXE may be useful for clinicians to identify PXE patients who develop severe systemic complications.

Keywords: Calcium deposit; Ectopic calcification; Elastin; Multiphoton microscopy; Nonlinear optical microscopy; Pseudoxanthoma elasticum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Calcification, Physiologic
  • Connective Tissue* / pathology
  • Elastin
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum* / diagnosis
  • Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum* / genetics
  • Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum* / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin* / pathology


  • ABCC6 protein, human
  • Elastin