Preclinical studies identify non-apoptotic low-level caspase-3 as therapeutic target in pemphigus vulgaris

Luyet, Camille; Schulze, Katja; Sayar, Beyza; Howald, Denise; Müller, Eliane Jasmine; Arnaud, Galichet (2015). Preclinical studies identify non-apoptotic low-level caspase-3 as therapeutic target in pemphigus vulgaris. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0119809. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0119809

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The majority of pemphigus vulgaris (PV) patients suffer from a live-threatening loss of intercellular adhesion between keratinocytes (acantholysis). The disease is caused by auto-antibodies that bind to desmosomal cadherins desmoglein (Dsg) 3 or Dsg3 and Dsg1 in mucous membranes and skin. A currently unresolved controversy in PV is whether apoptosis is involved in the pathogenic process. The objective of this study was to perform preclinical studies to investigate apoptotic pathway activation in PV pathogenesis with the goal to assess its potential for clinical therapy. For this purpose, we investigated mouse and human skin keratinocyte cultures treated with PV antibodies (the experimental Dsg3 monospecific antibody AK23 or PV patients IgG), PV mouse models (passive transfer of AK23 or PVIgG into adult and neonatal mice) as well as PV patients' biopsies (n=6). A combination of TUNEL assay, analyses of membrane integrity, early apoptotic markers such as cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) and the collapse of actin cytoskeleton failed to provide evidence for apoptosis in PV pathogenesis. However, the in vitro and in vivo PV models, allowing to monitor progression of lesion formation, revealed an early, transient and low-level caspase-3 activation. Pharmacological inhibition confirmed the functional implication of caspase-3 in major events in PV such as shedding of Dsg3, keratin retraction, proliferation including c-Myc induction, p38MAPK activation and acantholysis. Together, these data identify low-level caspase-3 activation downstream of disrupted Dsg3 trans- or cis-adhesion as a major event in PV pathogenesis that is non-synonymous with apoptosis and represents, unlike apoptotic components, a promising target for clinical therapy. At a broader level, these results posit that an impairment of adhesive functions in concert with low-level, non-lethal caspase-3 activation can evoke profound cellular changes which may be of relevance for other diseases including cancer.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Animal Pathology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Dermatology, Urology, Rheumatology, Nephrology, Osteoporosis (DURN) > Clinic of Dermatology
05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > DermFocus
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > BioMedical Research (DBMR) > Forschungsbereich Pathologie > Forschungsgruppe Dermatologie

UniBE Contributor:

Luyet, Camille, Schulze, Katja, Sayar, Beyza, Howald, Denise, Müller, Eliane Jasmine, Arnaud, Galichet


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
500 Science
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Public Library of Science




Andrea Studer-Gauch

Date Deposited:

24 May 2016 11:13

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:46

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PubMed ID:





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