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J Immunol. 2008 Apr 15;180(8):5430-8.

Equivalent specificity of peripheral blood and islet-infiltrating CD8+ T lymphocytes in spontaneously diabetic HLA-A2 transgenic NOD mice.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 580, Paris, France.


CD8(+) T cells play an important role in the initiation of insulitis and in the destructive stage leading to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. A string of recent studies has led to the identification of numerous HLA-A2-restricted epitopes derived from pancreatic beta cell Ags. It is hoped that assays detecting responses of patient PBMC to such epitopes might be instrumental for early diagnosis of beta cell-directed autoimmunity and for monitoring trials of immunointervention. However, it remains unclear whether the results of assays studying PBMC reflect responses of islet-infiltrating lymphocytes, and to what extent they correlate with disease risk and/or activity. We have used female and male humanized NOD mice expressing HLA-A2 in addition to murine MHC class I molecules to study spontaneous responses of islet-infiltrating blood, spleen, and lymph node lymphocytes of various age groups to a panel of 16 epitopes. Twelve of these are restricted by HLA-A2, have previously been shown to be recognized by patient CTL, and have identical sequences in human and murine autoantigens. Using an IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay, we find highly similar hierarchies of epitope immunodominance in the different T cell compartments, including peripheral blood and pancreatic islets. Moreover, we demonstrate that most of the epitopes eliciting dominant responses in humans display similar status in the mouse model. These results emphasize the potential of humanized mice as tools for studying spontaneous autoimmune CTL responses, and they provide a strong rationale for the development and use of assays monitoring responses of CD8(+) PBMC in human type 1 diabetes.

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