Low catalase levels in the epidermis of patients with vitiligo

J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Dec;97(6):1081-5. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12492612.


Suction blister roofs taken from the involved and uninvolved epidermis of patients with vitiligo showed a consistent reduction in levels of catalase compared to normal healthy controls of matched photo-skin types (Fitzpatrick classification). A decrease in catalase activity is expected to increase the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the epidermis of these patients. Hydrogen peroxide functions as a reversible inhibitor of human tyrosinase with a KI of 8 X 10(-6) M. Also, hydrogen peroxide undergoes photochemical reduction yielding highly reactive hydroxyl radicals (OH.) and hydroxyl ions (OH-) mainly by the Haber-Weiss reaction. Hydroxyl radicals are capable of bleaching constitutional melanin and cause membrane lysis through lipid peroxidation reactions. Hydroxyl ions increase the pH in the epidermis, and as a consequence glutathione reductase activity is increased in patients with vitiligo compared to controls. Based on these new results, together with the previously reported calcium transport defect, a new hypothesis has been formulated for the pathogenesis of vitiligo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catalase / analysis*
  • Glutathione Reductase / analysis
  • Humans
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / enzymology*
  • Skin / ultrastructure
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase / analysis
  • Vitiligo / enzymology*


  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Reductase
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase