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Diabetes. 1988 Nov;37(11):1484-8.

Alterations in T-lymphocyte subpopulations in type I diabetes. Exploration of genetic influence in identical twins.

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Department of Diabetes, Kings College Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


To evaluate factors influencing the alteration in subsets of T-lymphocytes, we studied 24 pairs of identical twins discordant for insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes mellitus. Subsets were assessed by monoclonal antibodies and a pure preparation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained by centrifugation of heparinized whole blood with a Ficoll/Triosil gradient. In 12 pairs studied within 5 yr of diagnosis, we observed a reduction in the percentage of cells reacting with OKT8 (recognizing the CD8 antigen present on the suppressor/cytotoxic subset) (P less than .05), but a similar level was detected in their nondiabetic cotwins. In 12 pairs studied greater than 5 yr after the diagnosis and in whom the nondiabetic twin is less likely to develop diabetes, the percentage of cells reacting with OKT8 was reduced in both the diabetic (P less than .05) and the nondiabetic (P less than .01) twins. Reductions were also seen with OKT3 (recognizing the CD3 antigen present on the total T-lymphocyte population) and OKT4 (recognizing the CD4 antigen present on the helper/inducer subset), but only in the diabetic twins from the group with longer discordance. We conclude that a reduced percentage of suppressor/cytotoxic cells is associated with type I diabetes, but the reduction appears to be genetically determined. Total T-lymphocytes are also reduced but mainly in the helper/inducer subset and only in diabetic patients of long duration. Such a reduction cannot therefore be primarily genetically determined.

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