Vitiligo is an acquired disease characterized principally by patchy depigmentation of skin and overlying hair. Generalized vitiligo (GV), the predominant form of the disorder, results from autoimmune loss of melanocytes from affected regions. GV is a "complex trait", inherited in a non-Mendelian polygenic, multifactorial manner. GV is epidemiologically associated with other autoimmune diseases, both in GV patients and in their close relatives, suggesting that shared genes underlie susceptibility to this group of diseases. Early candidate gene association studies yielded a few successes, such as PTPN22, but most such reports now appear to be false-positives. Subsequent genomewide linkage studies identified NLRP1 and XBP1, apparent true GV susceptibility genes involved in immune regulation, and recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of GV in Caucasian and Chinese populations have yielded a large number of additional validated GV susceptibility genes. Together, these genes highlight biological systems and pathways that reach from the immune cells to the melanocyte, and provide insights into both disease pathogenesis and potential new targets for both treatment and even prevention of GV and other autoimmune diseases in genetically susceptible individuals.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.