Trained immunity in the pathogenesis of vitiligo

Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2023 Sep;36(5):348-354. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.13101. Epub 2023 Jun 9.


Vitiligo is caused by an autoimmune reaction against melanocytes leading to melanocyte loss. The cause of vitiligo is an interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. Both the adaptive immune system-through cytotoxic CD8+ T cells and melanocyte specific antibodies-and the innate immune system are involved in these immune processes in vitiligo. While recent data stressed the importance of innate immunity in vitiligo, the question remains why vitiligo patients' immune response becomes overly activated. Could a long-term increase in innate memory function, described as trained immunity after vaccination and in other inflammatory diseases, play a role as an enhancer and continuous trigger in the pathogenesis of vitiligo? After exposure to certain stimuli, innate immune system is able to show an enhanced immunological response to a secondary trigger, indicating a memory function of the innate immune system, a concept termed trained immunity. Trained immunity is regulated by epigenetic reprogramming, including histone chemical modifications and changes in chromatin accessibility that cause sustained changes in the transcription of specific genes. In responses to an infection, trained immunity is beneficial. However, there are indications of a pathogenic role of trained immunity in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, with monocytes presenting features of a trained phenotype, resulting in increased cytokine production, altered cell metabolism through mTOR signaling, and epigenetic modifications. This hypothesis paper focusses on vitiligo studies that have shown these indications, suggesting the involvement of trained immunity in vitiligo. Future studies focusing on metabolic and epigenetic changes in innate immune cell populations in vitiligo could help in elucidating the potential role of trained immunity in vitiligo pathogenesis.

Keywords: innate immunity; pathogenesis; trained immunity; vitiligo.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Trained Immunity
  • Vitiligo*