Mitochondrial impairment in peripheral blood mononuclear cells during the active phase of vitiligo

J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Oct;117(4):908-13. doi: 10.1046/j.0022-202x.2001.01459.x.


Several hypotheses have been made about the pathogenesis of vitiligo, and some of them have considered a systemic involvement in the course of the disease. Evidence has been presented on the role of oxidative stress as the initial event in melanocyte degeneration. In accordance with this view, we determined the levels of some antioxidants, i.e., superoxide dismutase, catalase, reduced glutathione, and vitamin E, in erythrocytes and/or peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with active or stable vitiligo and from a control group of healthy subjects. In erythrocytes the parameters evaluated were not significantly different. On the contrary, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, superoxide dismutase activity was increased in both groups of patients, whereas catalase activity, reduced glutathione and vitamin E levels were decreased exclusively in subjects with active disease. The imbalance of antioxidants was associated with hyperproduction of reactive oxygen species due to a mitochondrial impairment as cyclosporin A, an inhibitor of the permeability transition pores opening, significantly reduced the reactive oxygen species production. Moreover an alteration of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential and a higher percentage of apoptotic cells were observed in active vitiligo patients. Based on these results, we suggest that, in vitiligo, mitochondria might be the target of different stimuli, such as reactive oxygen species generation, cytokines production, catecholamine release, alteration of Ca2+ metabolism, all of which capable of inducing melanocyte degeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Monocytes / physiology*
  • Oxidoreductases / blood
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / blood
  • Vitiligo / blood
  • Vitiligo / physiopathology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Oxidoreductases