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Autoimmunity. 1994;17(1):31-9.

T cell clones generated from patients with type 1 diabetes using interleukin-2 proliferate to human islet antigens.

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Department of Immunology, King's College School of Medicine, London, UK.


T lymphocytes are implicated in the pathogenesis of Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes. Activated T lymphocytes expressing IL-2 receptors are found at increased levels in the peripheral blood in the prediabetic period, at diagnosis and for several months after the onset of the disease, but their role in the pathogenesis of the disease is not known. We have used co-culture of peripheral blood lymphocytes with IL-2 alone to selectively generate T cell clones from the in vivo activated T cell population, and examined the phenotype and antigen specificity of the clones derived. From 3 patients with newly-diagnosed Type 1 diabetes 184 clones were generated, the majority of which (39%) were CD4+TCR alpha beta+, whilst 31% were CD8+TCR alpha beta+. From 2 healthy control subjects 90 clones were obtained, of which 62% were CD4+TCR alpha beta+ and 33% were CD8+TCR alpha beta+. Antigen specificity was examined in 46 clones from the patients and 44 from the control subjects in proliferation assays, using as antigens homogenate of human islets of Langerhans, human islet membrane preparation and human liver membrane preparation. Three clones (all CD4+TCR alpha beta+) from the patients, but none from the control subjects, proliferated in a dose dependent fashion in response to stimulation with human islet homogenate presented by autologous APCs, but to neither of the other autoantigen preparations. Our results demonstrate that a relatively high proportion (7%) of T lymphocytes activated in vivo recognise human islet antigens, indicating that they may have a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

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