Proinflammatory cytokines contribute to development and function of regulatory T cells in type 1 diabetes

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Type 1 diabetes is caused by immune-mediated loss of pancreatic beta cells. It has been proposed that inflammatory cytokines play a role in killing beta cells. Expression of interleukin (IL)-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) has been detected in islets from patients with type 1 diabetes, and these cytokines can induce beta cell deathin vitro. We produced nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice lacking receptors for these cytokines. Islets from mice lacking IL-1RI or TNFR1 were killed when transplanted into wild-type NOD mice, suggesting that cytokine action on beta cells is not required for killing. Mice lacking TNFR1 did not develop diabetes, and mice lacking IL-1R had delayed onset of diabetes, indicating a role for these cytokines in disease development. TNFR1-deficient mice had an increased number of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells with enhanced suppressive capacity. IL-1 was produced at higher levels in NOD mice and resulted in dilution of suppressor function of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells. Our data suggest that blocking inflammatory cytokines may increase the capacity of the immune system to suppress type 1 diabetes through regulatory T cells.

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