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Eur J Immunol. 1996 Mar;26(3):601-9.

Tolerance is overcome in beef insulin-transgenic mice by activation of low-affinity autoreactive T cells.

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The Arthritis Centre-Research Unit, Toronto Hospital, Canada.


To gain insight into the factors controlling the maintenance or loss of T cell self tolerance we produced beef insulin (BI)-transgenic BALB/c mice. Transgenic mice express BI under control of the human insulin promoter and secrete physiological amounts of beef insulin. Although these mice are tolerant to BI, as evidenced by the lack of insulin-specific IgG antibody production following intraperitoneal immunization, tolerance is not complete. Footpad immunization results in a weak antigen-specific T cell proliferative response, indicating the presence of self-reactive BI-specific T cell in the periphery. These T cells are functional in vivo, providing support for IgG1, IgG2a, and IgG2b BI-specific antibody production, but require higher higher concentrations of antigen than nontransgenic T cells (both in vivo and following recall responses in vitro) to become activated. In vitro, BI-specific T cell proliferation in BI-transgenic mice can be largely restored by addition of interleukin-2, indicating that a significant component of T cell tolerance is mediated by anergy. To characterize the autoreactive T cells that become activated when tolerance is broken, BI-specific T cell hybridomas were generated from transgenic mice and compared to a panel of hybridomas previously derived from nontransgenic BALB/c mice. The majority of BI-transgenic hybridomas recognized the immunodominant A1-14 beef insulin peptide but with lower avidity than BALB/c hybridomas. Consistent with this, none of the dominant T cell receptor rearrangements found in the BALB/c BI-specific T cell receptor repertoire were found in the transgenic hybridomas. These results indicate that, despite evidence for clonal inactivation of many BI-specific T cells in BI-transgenic mice, loss of tolerance results from activation of low-affinity antigen-specific T cells that appear to have escaped this process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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