The genetics of generalized vitiligo and associated autoimmune diseases


*Address correspondence to Richardï A. Spritz, e-mail:


Vitiligo is an acquired disorder in which patches of depigmented skin and often overlying hair, and mucous membranes, are the result of progressive autoimmune loss of melanocytes from the involved areas. Considered the most common pigmentary disorder, vitiligo involves complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors that ultimately contribute to melanocyte destruction, resulting in the characteristic depigmented lesions. In the past few years, studies of the genetic epidemiology of vitiligo have led to the recognition that generalized vitiligo is part of a broader autoimmune disease diathesis. Attempts to identify genes involved in susceptibility to generalized vitiligo have involved gene expression studies, genetic association studies of candidate genes, and genome-wide linkage analyses to discover new genes. These studies have begun to yield results that shed light on the mechanisms of vitiligo pathogenesis. It is anticipated that the discovery of biological pathways of vitiligo pathogenesis will provide novel targets for future approaches to the treatment and prevention of vitiligo and its associated autoimmune diseases.