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J Clin Immunol. 1999 Mar;19(2):127-34.

T-cell response to proinsulin and insulin in type 1 and pretype 1 diabetes.

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INSERM U342, Hôpital Saint-Vincent de Paul, Paris, France.


Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) results from the selective destruction of pancreatic beta cells by a T cell-mediated autoimmune process. Insulin and proinsulin are the only known beta cell-specific autoantigens. Using short-term cultures of freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells, we evaluated T-cell responses to proinsulin and to insulin in IDDM patients and individuals at risk for IDDM. A proliferative T-cell response to proinsulin was observed in only 2 of 26 recent-onset IDDM subjects and 2 of 12 long-standing IDDM subjects and was associated with a proliferative response to insulin. In contrast, 5 of 13 islet cell autoantibody-positive first-degree relatives of IDDM patients showed a proliferative response to proinsulin alone, 3 of 13 to insulin alone, and 1 of 13 to both insulin and proinsulin. Overall, 9 of 13 ICA-positive first-degree relatives responded to either proinsulin or insulin. We observed an inverse relationship between antiinsulin antibodies and T-cell responses to insulin in ICA-positive first-degree relatives but not in long-standing IDDM patients. Our data indicate that proinsulin is a major antigen in IDDM and, further, illustrate the difference between the autoimmune response to insulin and the immune response to exogenous insulin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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