IgA-binding structures in dermatitis herpetiformis skin are independent of elastic-microfibrillar bundles.
Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is characterized in part by the presence of granular deposits of IgA in the papillary dermis just beneath the dermal-epidermal junction. The nature of the structures to which IgA binds in DH skin, however, has not been clearly demonstrated. Previous immunoelectron-microscopy studies using the peroxidase-antiperoxidase technique have concluded that the IgA may bind to abnormal elastic microfibrillar bundles. Recently, antibodies have been developed against a major component of the elastic microfibril bundles, fibrillin. In addition, another dermal matrix protein, hexabrachion, has been characterized and found in normal human skin in a distribution similar to the IgA deposits of DH. Utilizing antibodies against fibrillin, hexabrachion, and human IgA and immunoelectronmicroscopy with immunogold staining techniques, we have examined the skin from patients with DH in order to localize the IgA deposits. Normal-appearing skin from five patients with DH exhibited electron-dense patches within the dermis, which were not seen in skin from normal subjects. These structures were sometimes adjacent to the basement membrane zone, but appeared amorphous and without a well-defined fibrillar structure. The electron-dense patches were labeled with anti-human IgA, but not with antibodies to fibrillin or hexabrachion. The anti-IgA antibody did not label the normal basement membrane. These studies confirm the presence of abnormal electron-dense, amorphous structures in the skin of patients with DH. Due to this lack of association with the elastic microfibril bundles and the lack of labeling with antibodies against fibrillin, we suggest that these deposits are distinct from the microfibrillar bundles of elastic tissue and may represent IgA bound to degraded basement membrane or isolated dermal deposits of IgA.
Lightner, VA; Sakai, LY; Hall, RP
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