Faculty Research 1990 - 1999

Targeted disruption of the pemphigus vulgaris antigen (desmoglein 3) gene in mice causes loss of keratinocyte cell adhesion with a phenotype similar to pemphigus vulgaris.

Document Type


Publication Date



Autoantigens: bi, ge, Blotting-Southern, Cadherins: bi, ge, Cell-Adhesion: ge, Cloning-Molecular, Disease-Models-Animal, Hair: ph, Homozygote, Keratinocytes: cy, Mice, Mice-Inbred-C57BL, Mice-Knockout, Mucous-Membrane: cy, Pemphigus: im, Phenotype, RNA-Messenger: me, Stem-Cells: cy, SUPPORT-NON-U-S-GOVT, SUPPORT-U-S-GOVT-P-H-S

First Page


Last Page


JAX Source

J Cell Biol 1997 Jun 2;137(5):1091-102




In patients with pemphigus vulgaris (PV), autoantibodies against desmoglein 3 (Dsg3) cause loss of cell-cell adhesion of keratinocytes in the basal and immediate suprabasal layers of stratified squamous epithelia. The pathology, at least partially, may depend on protease release from keratinocytes, but might also result from antibodies interfering with an adhesion function of Dsg3. However, a direct role of desmogleins in cell adhesion has not been shown. To test whether Dsg3 mediates adhesion, we genetically engineered mice with a targeted disruption of the DSG3 gene. DSG3 -/- mice had no DSG3 mRNA by RNase protection assay and no Dsg3 protein by immunofluorescence (IF) and immunoblots. These mice were normal at birth, but by 8-10 d weighed less than DSG3 +/- or +/+ littermates, and at around day 18 were grossly runted. We speculated that oral lesions (typical in PV patients) might be inhibiting food intake, causing this runting. Indeed, oropharyngeal biopsies showed erosions with histology typical of PV, including suprabasilar acantholysis and tombstoning of basal cells. EM showed separation of desmosomes. Traumatized skin also had crusting and suprabasilar acantholysis. Runted mice showed hair loss at weaning. The runting and hair loss phenotype of DSG3 -/- mice is identical to that of a previously reported mouse mutant, balding (bal). Breeding indicated that bal is coallelic with the targeted mutation. We also showed that bal mice lack Dsg3 by IF, have typical PV oral lesions, and have a DSG3 gene mutation. These results demonstrate the critical importance of Dsg3 for adhesion in deep stratified squamous epithelia and suggest that pemphigus autoantibodies might interfere directly with such a function.

Please contact the Joan Staats Library for information regarding this document.