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J Immunol. 2009 Oct 15;183(8):5146-57. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0802610. Epub 2009 Sep 25.

Genetic evidence that the differential expression of the ligand-independent isoform of CTLA-4 is the molecular basis of the Idd5.1 type 1 diabetes region in nonobese diabetic mice.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Center for Neurologic Diseases, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Idd5.1 regulates T1D susceptibility in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice and has two notable candidate genes, Ctla4 and Icos. Reduced expression of one of the four CTLA-4 isoforms, ligand-independent CTLA-4 (liCTLA-4), which inhibits in vitro T cell activation and cytokine production similarly to full-length CTLA-4 (flCTLA-4), has been hypothesized to increase type 1 diabetes (T1D) susceptibility. However, further support of this hypothesis is required since the Idd5.1 haplotypes of the diabetes-susceptible NOD and the resistant B10 strains differ throughout Ctla4 and Icos. Using haplotype analysis and the generation of novel Idd5.1-congenic strains that differ at the disease-associated Ctla4 exon 2 single-nucleotide polymorphism, we demonstrate that increased expression of liCTLA-4 correlates with reduced T1D susceptibility. To directly assess the ability of liCTLA-4 to modulate T1D, we generated liCTLA-4-transgenic NOD mice and compared their diabetes susceptibility to nontransgenic littermates. NOD liCTLA-4-transgenic mice were protected from T1D to the same extent as NOD.B10 Idd5.1-congenic mice, demonstrating that increased liCTLA-4 expression alone can account for disease protection. To further investigate the in vivo function of liCTLA-4, specifically whether liCTLA-4 can functionally replace flCTLA-4 in vivo, we expressed the liCTLA-4 transgene in CTLA-4(-/-) B6 mice. CTLA-4(-/-) mice expressing liCTLA-4 accumulated fewer activated effector/memory CD4(+) T cells than CTLA-4(-/-) mice and the transgenic mice were partially rescued from the multiorgan inflammation and early lethality caused by the disruption of Ctla4. These results suggest that liCTLA-4 can partially replace some functions of flCTLA-4 in vivo and that this isoform evolved to reinforce the function of flCTLA-4.

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