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J Clin Invest. 1999 Apr;103(8):1201-9.

Perforin-independent beta-cell destruction by diabetogenic CD8(+) T lymphocytes in transgenic nonobese diabetic mice.

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Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N1.


Autoimmune diabetes in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice results from destruction of pancreatic beta cells by T lymphocytes. It is believed that CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) effect the initial beta-cell insult in diabetes, but the mechanisms remain unclear. Studies of NOD.lpr mice have suggested that disease initiation is a Fas-dependent process, yet perforin-deficient NOD mice rarely develop diabetes despite expressing Fas. Here, we have investigated the role of perforin and Fas in the ability of beta cell-reactive CD8(+) T cells bearing a T-cell receptor (8.3-TCR) that is representative of TCRs used by CD8(+) CTLs propagated from the earliest insulitic lesions of NOD mice, and that targets an immunodominant peptide/H-2Kd complex on beta cells, to effect beta-cell damage in vitro and in vivo. In vitro, 8.3-CTLs killed antigenic peptide-pulsed non-beta-cell targets via both perforin and Fas, but they killed NOD beta cells via Fas exclusively. Perforin-deficient 8.3-TCR-transgenic NOD mice expressing an oligoclonal or monoclonal T-cell repertoire developed diabetes even more frequently than their perforin-competent littermates. These results demonstrate that diabetogenic CD8(+) CTLs representative of CTLs putatively involved in the initiation of autoimmune diabetes kill beta cells in a Fas-dependent and perforin-independent manner.

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