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Autoimmunity. 1994;18(1):15-22.

Loss of RT6 message and most circulating T cells after thymectomy of diabetes prone BB rats.

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  • 1Diabetes Division, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester.


T cells expressing the RT6 surface alloantigen perform important immunoregulatory functions in the rat. Diabetes prone (DP) BB rats are deficient in circulating RT6+ T cells and develop spontaneous autoimmune diabetes mellitus. Transfusions leading to engraftment of RT6+ T cells prevent the disease. Coisogenic diabetes resistant (DR) BB rats do circulate RT6+ T cells and are free of disease. We investigated the basis for the deficiency of RT6+ T cells in the DP-BB rat and made the following observations. 1. Thymectomy causes the rapid loss of most peripheral T cells in the DP-BB rat. 2. Concomitant with the loss of T cells is the total loss of mRNA encoding RT6. 3. In contrast to the effects observed in peripheral lymphoid tissues, thymectomy does not lead to a detectable loss in RT6+ protein found in the small intestine. We conclude that the deficiency of RT6+ peripheral T cells in the DP-BB rat is due either to their short life span or to their reduced proliferative capacity following release from the thymus.

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