Vitiligo: interplay between oxidative stress and immune system

Exp Dermatol. 2013 Apr;22(4):245-50. doi: 10.1111/exd.12103. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


Vitiligo is a multifactorial polygenic disorder with a complex pathogenesis, linked with both genetic and non-genetic factors. The precise modus operandi for vitiligo pathogenesis has remained elusive. Theories regarding loss of melanocytes are based on autoimmune, cytotoxic, oxidant-antioxidant and neural mechanisms. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) in excess have been documented in active vitiligo skin. Numerous proteins in addition to tyrosinase are affected. It is possible that oxidative stress is one among the main principal causes of vitiligo. However, there also exists ample evidence for altered immunological processes in vitiligo, particularly in chronic and progressive conditions. Both innate and adaptive arms of the immune system appear to be involved as a primary event or as a secondary promotive consequence. There is speculation on the interplay, if any, between ROS and the immune system in the pathogenesis of vitiligo. The article focuses on the scientific evidences linking oxidative stress and immune system to vitiligo pathogenesis giving credence to a convergent terminal pathway of oxidative stress-autoimmunity-mediated melanocyte loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes / immunology
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / pathology
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidative Stress / immunology*
  • Vitiligo / etiology*
  • Vitiligo / immunology
  • Vitiligo / metabolism


  • Cytokines