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Autoimmunity. 2001;34(4):247-64.

Heterophile antibodies indicate progression of autoimmunity in human type 1 diabetes mellitus before clinical onset.

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Joslin Diabetes Center, Immunology Section, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


We previously reported serum cytokines in a group of long term non-progressors to Type 1 diabetes; this reactivity detected in ELISA is now identified as heterophile antibody in some sera. Here, we characterize heterophile antibody activity. A 14 kDa-polypeptide from heterophile antibody containing serum bound to an anti-IL-4 column, but IL-4 was not detected by Western blot or by MS/MS sequencing. However, in 2/13 heterophile antibody positive sera, T-cell growth was potentiated and was blocked by an anti-human immunoglobulin. To examine the relationship between low affinity heterophile antibody presence and disease progression, 1100 archived serum samples were analyzed with two pairs of antibodies from 443 diabetes-free first degree relatives of Type 1 diabetes mellitus patients for heterophile antibody; 95 individuals developed diabetes on follow-up. Twenty-two individuals, whose serum was heterophile antibody positive with the second pair of antibodies (but negative with the first pair of antibodies), had a significantly higher incidence of developing diabetes after five years. Thirty-seven individuals with heterophile antibody reactivity with the first pair of antibodies, regardless of reactivity with the second pair of antibodies, had a significantly lower incidence of developing diabetes. While we cannot exclude the presence of genuine cytokine in all sera, these data indicate the presence of distinct groups of heterophile antibodies in patients at high risk to develop diabetes. Thus, anti-Ig heterophilic antibodies with different immunochemical reactivities are linked to the progression of or protection from Type 1 diabetes autoimmunity.

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