Electron microscopic examination still is the gold standard for classifying epidermolysis bullosa, although it is relatively expensive, time consuming, and not readily available. Immunoreagents have been developed recently to map antigens in the basement membrane on routinely processed specimens. The current study was performed to examine the diagnostic usefulness of immunohistochemistry, as compared with electron microscopic examination, for analyzing routine formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections of epidermolysis bullosa. This study investigated 39 consecutively diagnosed cases of epidermolysis bullosa in which both electron microscopic examination and immunohistochemistry were used. In each case, three monoclonal antibodies were used to stain for laminin 1, collagen IV, and keratin. The immunohistochemical patterns were defined as follows: epidermolysis bullosa simplex (laminin, collagen IV, or both at the dermal floor of the blister and keratin at both the dermal floor and the epidermal roof), junctional epidermolysis bullosa (laminin, collagen IV, or both at the dermal floor of the blister and keratin only at the epidermal roof), and dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (collagen IV, laminin, or both, and keratin all at the epidermal roof). Altogether, electron microscopic examination subclassified epidermolysis bullosa into its three major forms in 37 of the 39 cases (95%), and immunohistochemistry in 33 of the 39 cases (85%). All of the classifiable cases were concordant. Specifically, immunohistochemistry was diagnostic in 10 of 14 (71%) epidermolysis bullosa simplex cases, 14 of 14 (100%) junctional epidermolysis bullosa cases, and 9 of 11 (82%) dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa cases. The most frequent cause for inconclusive immunohistochemical results was failure in staining of the basement membrane with the antibodies to both laminin and collagen IV. In conclusion, the use of immunohistochemistry on routinely processed specimens may be useful for subclassifying epidermolysis bullosa into its major forms in the majority of the cases, although it still cannot fully replace electron microscopic examination or immunofluorescence mapping in the diagnosis of epidermolysis bullosa.
- Electron microscopic examination
- Epidermolysis bullosa