Nature communications

Shared VH1-46 gene usage by pemphigus vulgaris autoantibodies indicates common humoral immune responses among patients.

PMID 24942562


Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) is a potentially fatal blistering disease caused by autoantibodies (autoAbs) against desmoglein 3 (Dsg3). Here, we clone anti-Dsg3 antibodies (Abs) from four PV patients and identify pathogenic VH1-46 autoAbs from all four patients. Unexpectedly, VH1-46 autoAbs had relatively few replacement mutations. We reverted antibody somatic mutations to their germline sequences to determine the requirement of mutations for autoreactivity. Three of five VH1-46 germline-reverted Abs maintain Dsg3 binding, compared with zero of five non-VH1-46 germline-reverted Abs. Site-directed mutagenesis of VH1-46 Abs demonstrates that acidic amino-acid residues introduced by somatic mutation or heavy chain VDJ recombination are necessary and sufficient for Dsg3 binding. Our data suggest that VH1-46 autoantibody gene usage is commonly found in PV because VH1-46 Abs require few to no mutations to acquire Dsg3 autoreactivity, which may favour their early selection. Common VH gene usage indicates common humoral immune responses, even among unrelated patients.