Vitiligo is a human disorder which destroys pigment cells in the skin, ears, eyes, and meningeal tissues and has often been associated with a variety of autoimmune disorders. The C57BL/Ler-vit/vit mouse is a mutant strain that exhibits a loss of epidermal pigment cells and a selective cell-mediated immune deficiency to epicutaneous-administered allergens. This observation is consistent with that observed in humans with vitiligo, who also exhibit loss of contact hypersensitivity (CHS), that appears to be associated with loss of pigment cells from the epidermis. Other cellular immune parameters such as delayed type hypersensitivity and antibody generation to both particulate and soluble Ag are normal or even hyperimmune in the vit/vit mice compared with congenic C57BL/6 controls. Cyclophosphamide treatment could reconstitute CHS responsiveness of the vit/vit mice to the allergen dinitrofluorobenzene. Further, this loss of CHS responsiveness to dinitrofluorobenzene could be restored with skin transplants from normal pigmented C57BL/6 mice to vit/vit mice. Normal C57BL/6 mice bearing white skin grafts from vit/vit mice did not contact sensitize. We suggest that this vit/vit mouse strain may serve as an excellent system to investigate various aspects of other contact hypersensitivity reactions as well as vitiligo.

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