Lichen sclerosus: A C5B-9 mediated chronic microvascular injury syndrome potentially reflective of common adult comorbidities.

TitleLichen sclerosus: A C5B-9 mediated chronic microvascular injury syndrome potentially reflective of common adult comorbidities.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsMagro CM, Kalomeris TA, Mo JH, Rice M, Nuovo G
JournalAnn Diagn Pathol
Date Published2023 Apr
KeywordsAdult, Complement Membrane Attack Complex, Cytomegalovirus Infections, Humans, Hypertension, Interferon Type I, Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus, Middle Aged, Scleroderma, Localized

Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a cutaneous disease of unknown etiology that often involves the vulva or foreskin but also can affect extragenital sites. Regardless of the anatomic site, the histomorphology and presumably pathogenesis are similar. Perhaps a clue to the pathophysiology of LS lies in its frequent association with morphea, specifically, when occurring in an extragenital context. In our experience a striking feature evident in established lichen sclerosis (LS) is one of superficial vascular drop out whereby residual vessels exhibited endothelial cell necrosis and microvascular basement membrane zone thickening, the latter reflective of antecedent episodes of microvascular injury. We sought to understand the pathophysiology that underlies the distinct vascular changes and in doing so, shed light on the pathogenesis of LS. We examined 44 cases of LS over a period of 2019 to 2021. We were able to obtain past medical histories in 34 of the 44 cases. Regarding pathological assessment, the predominant focus was on microvascular changes. We assessed the role of C5b-9 mediated vascular injury in the pathogenesis of the vasculopathy and enhanced type I interferon signaling in vessels given the morphologic semblance to the select interferonopathy syndromes, namely fibrosing dermatomyositis and Kohlmeier Degos disease. We examined the expression of CMV DNA and protein based on prior observations in an earlier study that isolated early protein expression in the microvasculature in the setting of LS and scleroderma. From a clinical perspective, the most striking association was an older age at the time of diagnosis (mean age of 62 years and median age of 61.5 years) and the presence of vascular comorbidities of diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia in almost 80% of cases. All cases showed significant microvascular changes in the superficial corium with the most frequent findings being those of significant basement membrane zone reduplication and vascular drop out. A number of cases showed prominent microvascular deposits of C5b-9 in the zone of hyalinizing fibrosis or subjacent to the discernible table of fibroplasia in the absence of enhanced type I interferon signaling. In no case were there viral cytopathic changes associated with CMV affecting the endothelium. The studies that encode CMV DNA or protein did not show a significant role for CMV reactivation in endothelium in the majority of the studied cases. It is concluded that the pathophysiology of LS includes a microvascular injury syndrome within the papillary dermis. The mechanism of endothelial cell injury is complement mediated at least in part and could reflect an adaptive immune response targeting endothelium indicative of classic complement pathway activation when coexisting with morphea or occurring in younger individuals. A non-immune based endothelial dysfunction and complement mediated injury unrelated to antibody driven classic complement pathway activation are more likely pathogenetically in the setting of certain diseases like diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Vascular drop out can be explained by the diminished endothelial progenitor pool needed to repopulate the damaged microvessels in certain settings like hypertension and diabetes.

Alternate JournalAnn Diagn Pathol
PubMed ID36610314
Related Faculty: 
Cynthia M. Magro, M.D.

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