Vitiligo is a cutaneous pigmentary disorder characterized by the loss of melanocytes. An autoimmune mechanism is strongly suspected to be involved in this affection given that it is frequently associated with autoimmune hormonal disorders, and because antibodies directed against melanocytic antigens are found in the serum of patients with vitiligo. We examined the role of cellular immunity in melanoma-associated vitiligo by expanding infiltrating lymphocytes from fresh biopsy specimens of vitiligo patches in melanoma patients. The vitiligo-infiltrating lymphocytes were almost exclusively T lymphocytes, and most were CD8(+). Following in vitro expansion, vitiligo-infiltrating lymphocytes remained predominantly CD8(+) and expressed the cutaneous homing receptor CLA. Furthermore, vitiligo-infiltrating lymphocytes had a clonal or oligoclonal T cell receptor profile, possibly reflecting specific antigenic stimulation. Finally, vitiligo- infiltrating lymphocytes specifically recognized differentiation antigens shared by normal melanocytes and melanoma cells. This direct demonstration of CD8(+) T cell involvement in vitiligo suggests that, in melanoma patients, vitiligo may be a visible effect of a spontaneous antitumoral immune response.