• Pigment;
  • Vitiligo lesions;
  • Melanocytes

Following the earlier description of Carnot and Deflandre in 1896, pigment spread phenomenon in mammals was investigated using immunogenetically marked melanocytes (Billingham and Silver, Quart. Rev. Biol. 1960 35: 1–40; Billingham and Silver, Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1963 100: 348–363). In spite of a number of similar studies on vitiligo lesions, detailed evaluation of pigment spread in piebald lesions has not been reported. To gain further insight into the pigment spread phenomenon in human skin, five piebald patients were studied, on whom suction blister epidermal grafting therapy onto piebald patches was performed. In the present study, pigmentation of all epidermal grafts from normally pigmented areas spread horizontally. It was also found that pre-existing white hairs in recipient sites became pigmented within 1 year after epidermal grafting. Immunofluorescence studies using melanocyte-specific antibody NKI/beteb revealed the newly induced presence of melanocytes in the newly pigmented hair follicles. Further, to study the possible mechanisms inhibiting melanocyte migration from normal skin into piebald lesions, epidermis was grafted from border zones (containing both normal and piebald skin) into the center of hypopigmented lesions. Melanocytes clearly migrated through the border zone of grafted epidermis into surrounding recipient hypopigmented sites.