The pathogenesis of vitiligo is complex and not well understood. Genes play a role in all aspects of vitiligo pathogenesis, and studies are ongoing to identify these genes and understand their biology. There is a body of interlocking, compelling evidence supporting an autoimmune basis for most or all cases of generalized vitiligo. The development of an autoimmune disease generally involves three components; the immune system, environmental triggers and other exogenous precipitating factors, and the target tissue. In vitiligo, precipitating factors could induce melanocyte damage in genetically susceptible individuals and consequent cell death, loss of tolerance, and induction of melanocyte-directed autoimmunity. Future research will more precisely define the multiple biological events that regulate development of vitiligo.