Diagnostic Utility of C4d by Direct Immunofluorescence in Bullous Pemphigoid

Jeffrey Damman*, Gareth Edwards, Martijn B. van Doorn, Barbara Horvath, Gilles F.H. Diercks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


ABSTRACT: Bullous pemphigoid (BP) is an autoimmune blistering disease that commonly affects elderly patients. Direct immunofluorescence (DIF) for immunoglobulin G (IgG) and C3c on frozen skin biopsies is the gold standard for the diagnosis of BP. In a minority of cases, IgG and/or C3c are found negative, and in these situations, there is a need for a more stable diagnostic marker of BP. C4d is biologically inactive, but has a long half-life, rendering it a long-lived marker for antibody-mediated complement activation. Previous studies already demonstrated that C4d was diagnostically useful in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded skin biopsies of patients with BP. We hypothesized that C4d detected by DIF could also be a promising diagnostic marker for BP, particularly in IgG and/or C3c DIF-negative cases. In this single-center retrospective study, 69 cases of BP were analyzed for linear deposition of C4d; of the 69 cases, n = 26 were IgG+/C3c-, n = 10 IgG+/C3c+, and n = 33 IgG-/C3c-. Results were compared with n = 39 negative controls. Seven of the 26 (27%) IgG+/C3c- and 3 of the 33 (9%) IgG-/C3c- BP cases were positive for C4d. All 10 IgG+/C3c+ cases were also C4d positive. In the negative control group, 2 of the 39 (5%) were found positive for C4d. In conclusion, the current study shows that C4d is a more sensitive but not a 100% specific marker of BP. We conclude that C4d by DIF could be an interesting diagnostic adjunct for BP, particularly in IgG-/C3c- double negative cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-729
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Dermatopathology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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