When immunological tolerance breaks down, autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing β cells in the pancreas can cause insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. We previously showed that transgenic nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice expressing IL-4 in the pancreas (NOD-IL-4 mice) were protected from insulitis and diabetes. Here we have characterized the avoidance of pathological autoimmunity in these mice. The absence of disease did not result from a lack of T cell priming, because T cells responding to dominant islet Ags were present. These islet Ag-specific T cells displayed a Th2 phenotype, indicating that Th2 responses could account for the observed tolerance. Interestingly, islet Ag-specific Th1 T cells were present and found to be functional, because neutralization of the Th2 effector cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 resulted in diabetes. Histological examination revealed that NOD-IL-4 splenocytes inhibited diabetogenic T cells in cotransfer experiments by limiting insulitis and delaying diabetes. Neutralization of IL-4 in this system abrogated the ability of NOD-IL-4 splenocytes to delay the onset of diabetes. These results indicate that IL-4 expressed in the islets does not prevent the generation of pathogenic islet responses but induces islet Ag- specific Th2 T cells that block the action of diabetogenic T cells in the pancreas.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|State||Published - Aug 1 1999|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy