Cell-mediated autoimmunity has been suggested to be involved in the melanocyte apoptosis that occurs in vitiligo. We investigated the cytotoxicity to autologous melanocytes of CD8 + T cells from the perilesional margins and peripheral blood samples of vitiligo patients. CD8 + T cells isolated from skin biopsied from the edges of depigmented skin patches of vitiligo patients or from peripheral blood samples of the same donors were proliferated in culture medium. The primary cultures of CD8 + T cells and autologous melanocytes were mixed at ratios of 1:1, 1:2 or 1:5 and incubated for 3 days. The apoptosis of the melanocytes was analyzed by flow cytometry. Secreted cytokines in selected samples were measured by cytokine arrays. The results show that the CD8 + T cells were successfully isolated from the vitiligo perilesional margins. This cell population showed a significantly higher percentage of CD69 expression (56.13±3.55 versus 29.93±2.35%, p<0.01) and CD137 expression (41.74±1.06 versus 25.97±1.63%, p<0.01) compared with CD8 + T cells in peripheral blood from the same donors. The co-culturing of CD8 + T cells from lesional skin with autologous melanocytes induced apoptosis in the melanocytes (16.63±1.21, 16.71±0.63 and 18.32±1.60% for CD8 + T cells and autologous melanocytes at ratios of 1:1, 1:2 and 1:5, respectively). IL-6 levels were much higher in the co-culture (3.01-fold higher than in a melanocyte monoculture and 17.32-fold higher than in a CD8 + T-cell monoculture). The CD8 + T cells were also demonstrated to secrete more IL-13. Taken together, our data demonstrate that the infiltration of active CD8 + T cells takes place in the vitiligo perilesional margins. Those CD8 + T cells present significantly higher activation levels and higher cytotoxicity to autologous melanocytes than their counterparts from peripheral blood samples. These data suggest that CD8 + T cells are likely to be involved in the pathogenesis of vitiligo.