Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune skin disease characterized by subcorneal blistering and IgG antibodies directed against desmoglein 1. In the skin, these antibodies deposit intraepidermally. On rare occasions, an additional “lupus band” of granular depositions of IgG and complement is seen along the epidermal basement membrane zone. This combined pattern has been connected with a variant of pemphigus foliaceus named pemphigus erythematosus.
We describe 3 pemphigus foliaceus cases in which phototherapy was administered after a misdiagnosis of psoriasis. This treatment resulted in a flare of skin lesions. Direct immunofluorescence of skin biopsy specimens that were obtained several weeks later demonstrated intraepidermal and granular basement membrane zone depositions. The basement membrane zone depositions consisted of IgG, complement, and the ectodomain of desmoglein 1 and were located below the lamina densa.
High doses of UV light are likely to induce the cleaving of the desmoglein 1 ectodomain. In patients with pemphigus foliaceus, the circulating anti–desmoglein 1 antibodies precipitate this cleaved-off ectodomain along the basement membrane zone, resulting in a lupus band–like appearance. In pemphigus erythematosus, a similar mechanism may be active, which might explain the lupus-band phenomenon.