The epidermal blistering disease, pemphigus vulgaris (PV), is caused by circulating autoantibodies that react with a desmosomal glycoprotein desmoglein (Dsg3). This antigen is expressed only in stratified epithelial tissues. Here we show that the simple epithelial canine kidney cell line, MDCK, expresses at least two desmoglein isoforms recognised by different monoclonal antibodies. One of these isoforms is a 130 × 10(3) M(r) polypeptide that is recognised by both PV autoantisera and a monoclonal antibody reactive with a cytoplasmic domain of human Dsg3. Antibodies in PV sera bind to the surface of MDCK cells but not cause loss of intercellular adhesion. This is the first demonstration of the expression of a polypeptide related to human PV antigen by a simple epithelial cell type.

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