Rotavirus-specific T cell responses and cytokine mRNA expression in children with diabetes-associated autoantibodies and type 1 diabetes

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Rotavirus infections have been implicated as a possible trigger of type 1 diabetes. We elucidated this connection by comparing peripheral blood T cell responses to rotavirus between children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes (n = 43), healthy children with multiple diabetes-associated autoantibodies (n = 36) and control children carrying human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes but without autoantibodies (n = 104). Lymphocyte proliferation assays based on stimulation with an antigen were performed using freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and IgG and IgA class rotavirus antibodies were measured using plasma samples collected from the children. The expression of interferon (IFN)-γ, interleukin (IL)-4, IL-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β in PBMC was studied with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in a subgroup of 38 children. No differences were observed in the strength or frequency of positive T cell responses to rotavirus between children with overt diabetes, children with multiple autoantibodies and control children. Children with diabetes-associated autoantibodies had, instead, stronger T cell responses to purified coxsackie B4 virus than control children. Rotavirus-stimulated lymphocytes from autoantibody-positive children produced more IL-4 and phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated lymphocytes more IL-4 and IFN-γ than lymphocytes from control children. PHA-stimulated lymphocytes from children with diabetes also produced more IL-4 and purified protein derivative (PPD)-stimulated lymphocytes less TGF-β than lymphocytes from autoantibody-negative control children. In conclusion, our lymphocyte proliferation studies did not provide evidence supporting an association between rotavirus infections and the development of type 1 diabetes or diabetes-associated autoantibodies in young children.

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