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J Immunol. 2011 Apr 1;186(7):4078-87. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902395. Epub 2011 Feb 23.

Targeting of a T cell agonist peptide to lysosomes by DNA vaccination induces tolerance in the nonobese diabetic mouse.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Immunology, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


CD4 T cells are crucial effectors in the pathology of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Successful therapeutic interventions for prevention and cure of T1D in humans are still elusive. Recent research efforts have focused on the manipulation of T cells by treatment with DNA. In this paper, we studied the effects of a DNA treatment strategy designed to target antigenic peptides to the lysosomal compartment on a monospecific T cell population termed 2.5mi(+) T cells that shares reactivity with the diabetogenic T cell clone BDC-2.5 in the NOD mouse. MHC class II tetramer analysis showed that repeated administrations were necessary to expand 2.5mi(+) T cells in vivo. This expansion was independent of Ag presentation by B cells. A single peptide epitope was sufficient to induce protection against T1D, which was not due to Ag-specific T cell anergy. Typical Th2 cytokines such as IL-10 or IL-4 were undetectable in 2.5mi(+) T cells, arguing against a mechanism of immune deviation. Instead, the expanded 2.5mi(+) T cell population produced IFN-γ similar to 2.5mi(+) T cells from naive mice. Protection against T1D by DNA treatment was completely lost in NOD.CD28(-/-) mice which are largely deficient of natural regulatory T cells (Treg). Although Ag-specific Foxp3(+) Treg did not expand in response to DNA treatment, diabetes onset was delayed in Treg-reconstituted and DNA-treated NOD.SCID mice. These observations provide evidence for a Treg-mediated protective mechanism that is independent of the expansion or de novo generation of Ag-specific Treg.

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