Monthly Archives: May 2000

by Ernest H. Beutner, Ph.D.*
Professor of Microbiology and Dermatology,
University of Buffalo; School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences;
Buffalo, NY

Patients with pemphigus may benefit by working with their doctors to gain a better understanding of the tests used to detect and control the disease, in some situations. Three groups of tests can help doctors diagnose pemphigus; one of these can also help to control the disease. Two groups use skin or oral tissue samples, one from light microscopy and one for direct immunofluorescence. A third group uses blood tests for the pemphigus antibodies that cause the disease; these fluctuate with disease activity. Many doctors use al three methods to check all diagnoses of pemphigus; each test gives different types of information.

By David A. Sirois, D.M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Oral Medicine

Pemphigus vulgaris is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting the mucosa and skin and resulting in epithelial acantholysis, bullae formation, and chronic ulceration.1 Skin lesions of pemphigus vulgaris present clinically with typical bullae formation and ulceration. However, oral mucosal manifestations are less characteristic, typically occurring as multiple, chronic mucosal erosions or superficial ulcerations of various sizes and rarely presenting with intact bullae.2 Although pemphigus vulgaris is widely considered a skin disease, several reports of cases and case series have described it frequently as the initial, and occasionally the exclusive, site of involvement.2, 3 Thus, the unfamiliar features of oral pemphigus vulgaris could result in longer diagnostic and treatment delays than cutaneous pemphigus, which could adversely affect treatment response and prognosis.4, 5 The present study explored the natural history and diagnostic pattern of pemphigus vulgaris among 99 patients, with specific interest in the differences between oral and cutaneous pemphigus.

By Grant J. Anhalt, M.D.
Johns Hopkins Dermatology

I will attempt to clarify what we know about the antibody response in various forms of pemphigus and how the distribution of the targeted antigens affects the location of lesions. The synthesis of this work has been proposed by Dr. John Stanley, with key published advances from Dr. Masa Amagai and Mai Mahoney, Ph.D., P. Koch and others. John Stanley refers to his concept as the “desmoglein compensation hypothesis”. The key to this hypothesis is the desmogleins (pemphigus antigens) are key adhesion molecules that keep cells attached to each other. In some areas of the body, there are two desmogleins present, and both have to be damaged to cause cell detachment – in some areas only one desmoglein may be present at some level in the skin or mucous membrane, and there only one desmoglein has to be damaged to cause cell detachment.