Background Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease characterised by infiltration of T-lymphocytes in the islets of Langerhans. In particular, activated Th1-like lymphocytes secreting IFN-γ are suggested to contribute to the inflammatory process and the destruction of ß-cells, whereas Th2-like cells producing IL-4 might even be protective. Environmental factors (diet, viruses, stress etc.) and autoantigens, e.g. Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase (GAD65) and insulin, are suggested to initiate the autoimmune process resulting in type I diabetes.
Aim To estimate the immunological balance of Th1/Th2-like lymphocytes, spontaneously and after stimulation with antigens, in high-risk first degree relatives of type 1 diabetic children and in children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
Materials and methods Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy high-risk first-degree relatives (ICA ≥ 20) and newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic children were examined and compared with the response seen in PBMC from healthy controls matched for age and HLA-type (DR3 and/or DR4).
Expression of IFN-γ and IL-4 mRNA was determined by RT-PCR or real-time RTPCR and IFN-γ and IL-4 by ELISPOT or ELISA, spontaneously and after stimulation with GAD65 , insulin, bovine serum albumin (BSA), the ABBOS-peptide and ß-lactoglobulin (ßLG). Cytokine expression and secretion was compared to the production of diabetes-associated autoantibodies and to the secretion of endogenous insulin.
Results The epitope of GAD65, that mimics the Coxsackie B virus, caused increased IFN-γ mRNA expression in activated Th1-like lymphocytes from newly diagnosed diabetic children. This suggests that GAD65 might be involved in the development of type I diabetes. On the contrary, cow's milk proteins caused increased IFN-γ and IL- 4 mRNA expression in activated Th1- and Th2-like lymphocytes from both diabetic and healthy children. This does not support the hypothesis that cow's milk antigens are important for the development of type 1 diabetes.
Overwhelming secretion of IFN-γ was observed in high-risk first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetic children. High-risk individuals still have the ability to change a Th1-like immune deviation into a more protective Th2-like response in the presence of GAD65 and insulin.
Conclusions GAD65, but not cow's milk proteins, causes a Th1-like deviation in type 1 diabetic children. High-risk individuals are capable to deviate a Th1-like immune system into a more protective Th2-like response in the presence of autoantigens. These results can be useful in future therapeutic approaches.
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 2000. , 130 p.