Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



Adv Biol (Weinh). 2021 January ; 5(1): e2000159. doi:10.1002/adbi.202000159


It is becoming increasingly clear that mechanical stress in adhesive junctions plays a significant role in dictating the fate of cell–cell attachment under physiological conditions. Targeted disruption of cell–cell junctions leads to multiple pathological conditions, among them the life-threatening autoimmune blistering disease pemphigus vulgaris (PV). The dissociation of cell–cell junctions by autoantibodies is the hallmark of PV, however, the detailed mechanisms that result in tissue destruction remain unclear. Thus far, research and therapy in PV have focused primarily on immune mechanisms upstream of autoantibody binding, while the biophysical aspects of the cell– cell dissociation process leading to acantholysis are less well studied. In work aimed at illuminating the cellular consequences of autoantibody attachment, it is reported that externally applied mechanical stress mitigates antibody-induced monolayer fragmentation and inhibits p38 MAPK phosphorylation activated by anti-Dsg3 antibody. Further, it is demonstrated that mechanical stress applied externally to cell monolayers enhances cell contractility via RhoA activation and promotes the strengthening of cortical actin, which ultimately mitigates antibody-induced cell–cell dissociation. The study elevates understanding of the mechanism of acantholysis in PV and shifts the paradigm of PV disease development from a focus solely on immune pathways to highlight the key role of physical transformations at the target cell.