Confirmation and Identification of Biomarkers Implicating Environmental Triggers in the Pathogenesis of Type 1 Diabetes

Robert Z. Harms, Katie R. Ostlund, Monina S. Cabrera, Earline Edwards, Marisa Fisher, Nora Sarvetnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Multiple environmental triggers have been proposed to explain the increased incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D). These include viral infections, microbiome disturbances, metabolic disorders, and vitamin D deficiency. Here, we used ELISA to examine blood plasma from juvenile T1D subjects and age-matched controls for the abundance of several circulating factors relevant to these hypotheses. We screened plasma for sCD14, mannose binding lectin (MBL), lipopolysaccharide binding protein (LBP), c-reactive protein (CRP), fatty acid binding protein 2 (FABP2), human growth hormone, leptin, total adiponectin, high molecular weight (HMW) adiponectin, total IgG, total IgA, total IgM, endotoxin core antibodies (EndoCAbs), 25(OH) vitamin D, vitamin D binding protein, IL-7, IL-10, IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-17A, IL-18, and IL-18BPa. Subjects also were tested for prevalence of antibodies targeting adenovirus, parainfluenza 1/2/3, Coxsackievirus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus viral capsid antigen (EBV VCA), herpes simplex virus 1, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Finally, all subjects were screened for presence and abundance of autoantibodies targeting islet cell cytoplasmic proteins (ICA), glutamate decarboxylase 2 (GAD65), zinc transporter 8 (ZNT8), insulinoma antigen 2 (IA-2), tissue transglutaminase, and thyroid peroxidase, while β cell function was gauged by measuring c-peptide levels. We observed few differences between control and T1D subjects. Of these, we found elevated sCD14, IL-18BPa, and FABP2, and reduced total IgM. Female T1D subjects were notably elevated in CRP levels compared to control, while males were similar. T1D subjects also had significantly lower prevalence of EBV VCA antibodies compared to control. Lastly, we observed that c-peptide levels were significantly correlated with leptin levels among controls, but this relationship was not significant among T1D subjects. Alternatively, adiponectin levels were significantly correlated with c-peptide levels among T1D subjects, while controls showed no relationship between these two factors. Among T1D subjects, the highest c-peptide levels were associated with the lowest adiponectin levels, an indication of insulin resistance. In total, from our examination we found limited data that strongly support any of the hypotheses investigated. Rather, we observed an indication of unexplained monocyte/macrophage activation in T1D subjects judging from elevated levels of sCD14 and IL-18BPa. These observations were partnered with unique associations between adipokines and c-peptide levels among T1D subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1922
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Sep 15 2020


  • EndoCAbs
  • Type 1 diabetes (T1D)
  • Vitamin D
  • acute phase proteins (APP)
  • adipokines
  • cytokine
  • human blood plasma
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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