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J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Dec;97(6):1081-5.

Low catalase levels in the epidermis of patients with vitiligo.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Hamburg, Germany.


Suction blister roofs taken from the involved and uninvolved epidermis of patients with vitiligo showed a consistent reduction in levels of catalase compared to normal healthy controls of matched photo-skin types (Fitzpatrick classification). A decrease in catalase activity is expected to increase the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the epidermis of these patients. Hydrogen peroxide functions as a reversible inhibitor of human tyrosinase with a KI of 8 X 10(-6) M. Also, hydrogen peroxide undergoes photochemical reduction yielding highly reactive hydroxyl radicals (OH.) and hydroxyl ions (OH-) mainly by the Haber-Weiss reaction. Hydroxyl radicals are capable of bleaching constitutional melanin and cause membrane lysis through lipid peroxidation reactions. Hydroxyl ions increase the pH in the epidermis, and as a consequence glutathione reductase activity is increased in patients with vitiligo compared to controls. Based on these new results, together with the previously reported calcium transport defect, a new hypothesis has been formulated for the pathogenesis of vitiligo.

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