Reduction of skin-homing cytotoxic T cells (CD8+ -CLA+) in patients with vitiligo

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2011 Feb;27(1):40-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0781.2010.00563.x.


Background: Vitiligo is a frequently acquired, hereditary disease, characterized by achromic macules due to the absence of melanocytes. In contrast with earlier studies, in which the main pathogenic role was attributed to anti-melanocyte antibodies, recent papers have emphasized a role for CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes in melanocyte destruction. Fifteen percent of peripheral T cell express cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen (CLA), responsible for skin-homing T cell. Phototherapy is used to treat patients with generalized vitiligo and it has been shown to interfere with CLA(+) T cells in other skin diseases.

Objective: To describe peripheral blood T cell subpopulations' frequency and ability to express the skin-homing molecule (CLA) in patients with non-segmental vitiligo, before and after photochemotherapy (PUVA).

Patients and methods: Twenty-two patients with generalized and active spreading vitiligo were submitted to 30 PUVA-8MOP sessions. Lymphocyte immunophenotyping was performed by flow cytometry using anti-CD3, anti-CD8 and anti-CLA monoclonal antibodies. Fifteen healthy volunteers, sex- and age-matched, were included as a control group.

Results: CD8(+) -CLA(+) T cells were significantly reduced in number in untreated vitiligo patients (P=0.008) when compared with control individuals, albeit with a more intense CLA expression (P=0.028). These findings were not altered after PUVA. No significant difference was noticed in CD4/CD8 ratios nor in CD4-CLA(+) T cell numbers between vitiligo patients and controls, both before and after PUVA.

Conclusions: CD8-CLA(+) T cells are reduced in peripheral blood of patients with non-segmental vitiligo. This finding may be related to the previously reported increase of CD8(+) cells in both lesions and perilesional skin of these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / metabolism*
  • CD4 Antigens / metabolism*
  • CD8 Antigens / metabolism*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Melanocytes / immunology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • PUVA Therapy
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Vitiligo / immunology
  • Vitiligo / metabolism
  • Vitiligo / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Membrane Glycoproteins