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J Autoimmun. 2007 Dec;29(4):281-6. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Apoptosis of melanocytes in vitiligo results from antibody penetration.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Laboratorios Clínicos de Puebla, Diaz Ordaz 808, Puebla, PUE 72530, Mexico.


Vitiligo is a rather common disease characterized by depigmentation of skin and mucosae due to the loss of melanocytes, most likely as a result of autoimmune phenomena. In this study we demonstrated apoptotic markers in residual melanocytes in skin biopsies of patients with vitiligo, as well as the presence of serum antibodies to melanocyte-specific antigens in the vast majority of patients. Moreover, we were able to prove that serum IgG antibodies from vitiligo patients, but not from healthy controls, were capable to penetrate into cultured melanocytes in vitro, and trigger them to engage in apoptosis. Our results are consonant with the theory that melanocyte-specific antibodies are responsible for the deletion of melanocytes through antibody penetration and apoptosis.

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