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Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition characterized by loss of epidermal melanocytes. High frequencies of melanocyte-reactive cytotoxic T cells in the peripheral blood of vitiligo patients and the observed correlation between perilesional T-cell infiltration and melanocyte loss in situ suggest the important role of cellular autoimmunity in the pathogenesis of this disease. We isolated T cells from both perilesional and nonlesional skin biopsies obtained from five vitiligo patients, then cloned and analyzed their profile of cytokine production after short-term, nonspecific expansion in vitro. Perilesional T-cell clones (TCC) derived from patients with vitiligo exhibited a predominant Type-1-like cytokine secretion profile, whereas the degree of Type-1 polarization in uninvolved skin-derived TCC correlated with the process of microscopically observed melanocyte destruction in situ. Detailed analysis of broad spectrum of cytokines produced by perilesional- and nonlesional-derived CD4+ and CD8+ TCC confirmed polarization toward Type-1-like in both CD4 and CD8 compartments, which paralleled depigmentation process observed locally in the skin. Furthermore, CD8+ TCC derived from two patients also were analyzed for reactivity against autologous melanocytes. The antimelanocyte cytotoxic reactivity was observed among CD8+ TCC isolated from perilesional biopsies of two patients with vitiligo. Finally, in two of five patients, tetramer analysis revealed presence of high frequencies of Mart-1-specific CD8 T cells in T-cell lines derived from perilesional skin. Altogether our data support the role of cellular mechanisms playing a significant part in the destruction of melanocytes in human autoimmune vitiligo.


Journal article


Lab Invest

Publication Date





683 - 695


Adult, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Line, Cell Polarity, Female, Humans, Immunophenotyping, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-4, Male, Melanocytes, Middle Aged, Skin, Vitiligo