Expression of IL-10 transgene (tg) in pancreatic β cells failed to induce autoimmune insulitis and diabetes in (BALB/c x NOD)F1 mice. However, IL-10-expressing tg littermates from backcrosses (N2 and N3) with NOD mice became diabetic at 5 to 10 weeks of age in an MHC-dependent manner. In this study, we tested the possibility that enhancement in frequency of islet antigen (Ag)-specific T cells overrides the protective effects of a diabetes- resistant genetic background and promotes diabetes in IL-10 tg (BALB/c x NOD)F1 mice. For this test, we introduced the IL-10 transgene into tg BDC2.5 mice expressing the islet Ag-specific Vβ4 T cell repertoire by breeding Ins- IL-10+/BALB/c mice with BDC2.5 mice. The progeny (Ins-IL-10+/BALB/c x BDC2.5+)F1 mice doubly tg for IL-10 and Vβ4 (BDC2.5) T cell repertoire, developed diabetes at 10 to 18 weeks of age with a much more aggressive T cell infiltrate in the pancreatic islets than in single tg mice. Surprisingly, these diabetic mice were free from acute pancreatitis but had apoptotic β cells in the islet infiltrate. Conversely, mice tg for Vβ4 (BDC2.5) T cell repertoire but not IL-10 had no diabetes and no apoptotic β cells in the islet infiltrate. Therefore, an increase in the frequency of islet-specific T cells apparently overcomes the protection from diabetes by a resistant genetic background. Interestingly, N2 backcross mice doubly tg for Vβ4 (BDC2.5) T cell repertoire and IL-10, compared to N2 backcross mice tg for IL-10 only, eventually became diabetic but with a delayed onset and reduced incidence of disease. These findings demonstrate that, along with IL- 10, an increase in frequency of islet antigen-specific T cells (a) overrides the protective effect of genetic resistance to autoimmune diabetes in F1 mice and (b) delays the onset of an otherwise accelerated diabetes in (Ins-IL- 10+/NOD)N2 backcross mice.
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