Autoimmune bullous diseases (ABDs) are organ-specific autoimmune diseases, in which blisters on the skin and mucous membranes develop through binding of pathogenic autoantibodies to target antigens. There are two major ABD groups: the pemphigus group, showing autoantibodies to desmosomal components; and the subepidermal ABD group, showing autoantibodies to hemidesmosomal components in the epidermal basement membrane zone. Recent immunological, biochemical and molecular biological studies revealed many new autoantigens, including desmocollins, various plakin family proteins and integrins. A revised ABD classification includes new disease entities such as paraneoplastic pemphigus, IgA pemphigus and anti-laminin γ1 pemphigoid. In addition to systemic corticosteroids and various immunosuppressive agents, various adjuvant therapies for ABDs have developed. Among them, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a promising therapy, although the therapeutic mechanisms are still unknown. Various disease models for ABDs have developed, particularly for pemphigus vulgaris, bullous pemphigoid and epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA), and these have provided insights into the pathogenesis of various ADBs that suggest possible new treatment strategies. However, the fundamental mechanisms in disruption of immune-tolerance are still unknown. EBA shows autoimmunity to type VII collagen, the major component of anchoring fibrils, and EBA pathogenesis has been studied in various disease models. Previous studies suggested that, following binding of autoantibodies to type VII collagen, activation of complement, cytokine release, neutrophil migration, Fcγ receptors (FcgRs) and metalloproteinases play important roles in induction of subepidermal blisters. In this issue of the Journal of Pathology, Kasperkiewicz and colleagues reveal important roles of activating FcgRIV and inhibitory FcgRIIB in EBA pathogenesis that were recognized by conducting elegant studies using both genetic analysis and functional animal model methods. The expression equilibrium of the activating and inhibitory FcgRs can be modulated towards the inhibitory FcgRIIB by IVIG therapy, resulting in beneficial clinical effects of IVIG in EBA and other autoimmune skin-blistering diseases. Copyright © 2012 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.