Pęcherzyca vulgaris (PV) is a life-threatening autoimmune blistering skin disease characterized by detachment of keratinocytes (acantholysis). It has been proposed that PV IgG might trigger signaling and that this process may lead to acantholysis. Indeed,
we recently identified a rapid and dose-dependent phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) and heat shock protein (HSP) 27 after binding of PV antibodies to cultured keratinocytes. In human keratinocyte cultures, inhibitors of p38MAPK prevented PV IgG-induced phosphorylation of HSP27 and, more importantly, prevented the early cytoskeletal changes associated with loss of cell-cell adhesion. This study was undertaken to (i) determine whether p38MAPK and HSP25, the murine HSP27 homolog, were similarly phosphorylated in an in vivo model of PV and (ii) investigate the potential therapeutic use of p38MAPK inhibition to block blister formation in an animal model of PV. We now report that p38MAPK inhibitors prevented PV blistering disease in vivo. Targeting the end-organ by inhibiting keratinocyte desmosome signaling may be effective for treating desmosome autoimmune blistering disorders.