Elevated expression and release of tissue-type, but not urokinase-type, plasminogen activator after binding of autoantibodies to bullous pemphigoid antigen 180 in cultured human keratinocytes


Dr Detlef Zillikens, Department of Dermatology, University of Würzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany
E-mail: zillikens_d@klinik.uni-wuerzburg.de


In bullous pemphigoid (BP), the binding of BP180-specific antibodies to their hemidesmosomal target antigen is not sufficient for blister formation, but must be accompanied by the release of proteases. Using plasminogen activator (PA) knock-out mice, the PA system has previously been shown to be a prerequisite for blister formation in experimental murine BP. Here, we found elevated levels of plasmin and tPA, but not of uPA, in blister fluid from BP patients (n = 7) compared to blisters from patients with toxic epidermal necrolysis (n = 4) and suction blisters in healthy controls (n = 7). Subsequently, we addressed the question whether keratinocytes release PA in response to the binding of anti-BP180 antibodies. Treatment of cultured normal human keratinocytes with BP IgG, but not with control IgG, led to both increased protein and mRNA levels of tPA, but not of uPA, as determined by ELISA and RT-PCR, respectively. The specificity of this finding was confirmed using BP180-deficient keratinocytes from a patient with generalized atrophic benign epidermolysis bullosa, where no tPA release was observed after stimulation with BP IgG. Our results show the elevated expression and release of tPA from normal human keratinocytes upon stimulation with antibodies to human BP180. Keratinocytes, by secreting tPA, may thus play an active role in blister formation of BP.