Fogo selvagem (FS), the endemic form of pemphigus foliaceus, is a cutaneous autoimmune disease characterized by subcorneal blistering of the epidermis and the production of autoantibodies against the desmosomal antigen desmoglein-1 (Dsg1). Previously, we showed that mice injected with autoantibodies from FS patients develop a skin disease that reproduces the clinical, histological, and immunological features of FS, indicating that autoantibodies play an essential role in the development of this disease. The purpose of this study was to characterize the autoimmune T-cell response associated with FS. We provide here the first evidence, to our knowledge, that the great majority of FS patients have circulating T lymphocytes that specifically proliferate in response to the extracellular domain of Dsg1. Long-term T cells developed from these patients also responded to Dsg1, and this antigen-specific response was shown to be restricted to HLA-DR molecules. These Dsg1-reactive FS T cells exhibited a CD4-positive memory T- cell phenotype and produced a T helper 2-like cytokine profile. These findings represent the initial steps in defining the role oft cells in FS autoimmunity.
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