Application of C4d immunohistochemistry on routinely processed tissue sections for the diagnosis of autoimmune bullous dermatoses

Axel P. Villani, Brigitte Chouvet, Jean Kanitakis

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19 Scopus citations


The diagnosis of autoimmune bullous dermatoses relies greatly on direct immunofluorescence (DIF) examination performed on frozen tissue sections, showing deposits of immunoglobulins and/or C3 on specific cutaneous structures. However, frozen material is not always available for DIF; therefore, alternative techniques are needed in the diagnostic procedure. We therefore tested the usefulness of C4d immunohistochemistry on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections for the diagnosis of bullous pemphigoid (BP) and pemphigus (P). A retrospective immunohistochemical study was performed on biopsies of BP (n: 29) and P (n: 22, including 19 Pemphigus vulgaris and 3 paraneoplastic), submitted for routine histological examination and compared with DIF on the corresponding frozen sections. Twenty-five BP biopsies (86.2%) showed C4d deposits seen as a linear labeling along the dermal-epidermal junction and on the membrane of basal keratinocytes. Seventeen P biopsies (77.2%) showed C4d deposits in a classical "intercellular" pattern, predominating on the lower epidermal layers. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value reached 86%, 98%, 96%, and 92% in BP, respectively and 77%, 98%, 94%, and 92% in P, respectively. Furthermore, in the cases where serological tests were available, the sensitivity of C4d detection was higher than that of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay/indirect immunofluorescence in both BP (87% vs. 67%) and P (82% vs. 54.5%). We conclude that DIF on frozen sections still remains the gold standard for the immunopathological diagnosis of BP and P; however, in the absence of frozen material, C4d immunohistochemistry performed on routinely processed biopsy material can be of considerable help in confirming the diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-188
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Dermatopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • C4d immunohistochemistry
  • bullous pemphigoid
  • direct immunofluorescence
  • formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections
  • indirect immunofluorescence
  • pemphigus


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