Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is a life-threatening skin disease in which autoantibodies against a keratinocyte cell surface 130 kd glycoprotein, PV antigen (PVA), cause loss of cell-cell adhesion, with resultant epidermal blisters. We used affinity-purified PV lgG to isolate cDNA, containing the entire coding sequence for PVA, from human keratinocyte expression libraries. Northern blot analysis indicated PV mRNA expression only in stratified squamous epithelia. The deduced amino acid sequence of PVA was unique but showed significant homology with members of the cadherin family of Ca2+-dependent cell adhesion molecules, most markedly to desmoglein I. These findings demonstrate that a novel epithelial cadherin is the target of autoantibodies in PV.
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