Tacrolimus (FK506) ointment combined with Nb-UVB could activate both hair follicle (HF) and dermal melanocyte precursors in vitiligo: the first histopathological and clinical study

Arch Dermatol Res. 2021 Jul;313(5):383-388. doi: 10.1007/s00403-020-02068-z. Epub 2020 Apr 17.


Topical Tacrolimus, especially when combined with Nb-UVB, has been proven clinically to be effective in the treatment of vitiligo. However, no histological study has evaluated the repigmentation mechanism of tacrolimus ointment in combination therapy with Nb-UVB. In this study, the histological findings in patients receiving Nb-UVB were compared with those receiving topical tacrolimus combined with Nb-UVB. Twenty patients were recruited and received Nb-UVB treatment. The first ten patients were selected for the combination therapy and instructed to apply tacrolimus 0.1% ointment twice daily on the specified lesion of interest. The remaining ten patients did not receive any other topical treatments. Skin biopsy was performed at baseline from the depigmented area and 2-3 months post-treatment from the repigmented area. Biopsy specimens were stained with haematoxylin-eosin-safran (HES), Fontana Masson, HMB45, Melan A, MITF, SOX10 and Nestin. Clinically, in the combination therapy group, interfollicular repigmentation in addition to the perifollicular and marginal pattern was observed. Histologically, in the combination therapy group, besides the migration of melanocytes from the bulge of the hair follicle seen in the monotherapy group, for the first time, we observed dermal melanocyte precursors located in mid- and superficial dermis.

Keywords: MITF; Nb-UVB; Stem cells; Tacrolimus; Vitiligo; Wn’t pathway.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Biopsy
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Dermis / cytology
  • Dermis / drug effects*
  • Dermis / pathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hair Follicle / drug effects*
  • Hair Follicle / pathology
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes
  • Ointments
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects
  • Tacrolimus / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultraviolet Therapy / methods*
  • Vitiligo / diagnosis
  • Vitiligo / pathology
  • Vitiligo / therapy*


  • Ointments
  • Tacrolimus