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J Autoimmun. 1997 Aug;10(4):339-46.

Oral administration of the immunodominant B-chain of insulin reduces diabetes in a co-transfer model of diabetes in the NOD mouse and is associated with a switch from Th1 to Th2 cytokines.

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Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.


Oral administration of antigen leads to systemic immune unresponsiveness. Low dose oral tolerance generates regulatory cells which, when triggered in an antigen-specific manner, suppress inflammatory responses. We have previously shown that oral administration of an organ-specific antigen, porcine insulin, protects against diabetes development in the NOD mouse. In the present study we extend these observations to the B-chain of insulin, a 30-amino-acid peptide which has now been shown by others to contain the immunogenic epitope. Oral administration of the B-chain slowed diabetes development in a co-transfer model in which cells from B-chain-fed animals were co-transferred with diabetogenic cells (P=0.02). Further exposure to antigen via feeding of the co-transfer recipient animals not only slowed diabetes development but prevented diabetes in some animals (P=0.01). In vitro proliferation of popliteal lymph node cells from fed and immunized animals was suppressed in an antigen-specific manner when cells were restimulated with the fed antigen. When those cells were cultured and restimulated in vitro with the B-chain of insulin, we also observed a decrease in IFN-gamma expression and an increase in IL-4, TGF-beta and IL-10 expression. These results demonstrate that an orally protective epitope resides in the B-chain of insulin and that refeeding following adoptive transfer enhances protection. Finally, the orally administered antigen is associated with a decrease in Th1 responses and an increase in Th2 responses to the insulin B-chain.

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