Keratinocyte cultures from involved skin in vitiligo patients show an impaired in vitro behaviour


*Address correspondence to Liliana Guerra, e-mail:


Vitiligo depigmentation is considered a consequence of either melanocyte disappearance or loss of functioning melanocytes in the involved areas. However, it has been reported that keratinocytes in involved vitiligo skin are damaged too. Based on this evidence, we evaluated the in vitro behaviour, in life span cultures, of involved and uninvolved vitiligo keratinocytes and their expression of proliferation, differentiation and senescence markers. An additional purpose was to investigate whether vitiligo keratinocytes from depigmented skin are able to sustain survival and growth of normal melanocytes (when added in co-culture experiments), as normal human keratinocytes manage to do. Our results demonstrate that almost all involved vitiligo keratinocytes have a shorter life span in vitro than the uninvolved cells and all of them do not maintain melanocytes in culture in a physiological ratio. Modification of proliferation and senescence marker expression also occurs. Indeed, we detected low initial expression levels of the senescence marker p16 in involved vitiligo keratinocytes, despite their shorter in vitro life span, and increased expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen and p53. This preliminary analysis of a small number of in vitro cultured vitiligo keratinocytes suggests an impaired senescence process in lesional vitiligo keratinocytes and attempts to regulate it.