Dermatitis herpetiformis--an autoimmune disease due to cross-reaction between dietary glutenin and dermal elastin?

Scand J Immunol. 1993 Dec;38(6):546-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.1993.tb03239.x.


Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), is associated with skin eruptions and granular depositions of IgA in the papillary dermis, but this is not a feature of coeliac disease (CD). The specificity of the IgA in the skin is unknown. High molecular weight glutenin (HMW-g), a component of gluten, has been shown to have structural similarities to human elastin. This paper reports immunoadsorption studies which suggest that human serum may contain antibodies which cross-react with HMW-g and elastin. DH patients had significantly lower levels of IgA antibodies to HMW-g and to elastin than both CD patients and healthy controls. Furthermore, introduction of a gluten-free diet (GFD) was associated with a further reduction in the amount of IgA antibodies to elastin in the DH patients. This diet-associated decrease of elastin antibodies was restricted to the IgA isotype. A significant correlation was observed between IgA antibodies to HMW-g and elastin in healthy controls and CD patients, while no such correlation was found in patients with DH. These findings could indicate that HMW-g induces production of antibodies to elastin, which are deposited in the skin, and that when the antigenic stimulus is removed, these antibodies are further reduced due to continuous dermal deposition. It is postulated that DH may be an autoimmune disease due to cross-reactivity between dietary glutenin and dermal elastin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / diet therapy
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / immunology*
  • Diet
  • Elastin / immunology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Glutens / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / immunology*
  • Triticum / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Glutens
  • Elastin
  • glutenin