Stimulation of a shorter duration in the state of anergy by an invariant natural killer T cell agonist enhances its efficiency of protection from type 1 diabetes

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SummaryWe have reported previously that treatment of non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice with the invariant natural killer T (iNK T) cell agonist α-galactosylceramide C26:0 (α-GalCer) or its T helper type 2 (Th2)-biasing derivative α-GalCer C20:2 (C20:2) protects against type 1 diabetes (T1D), with C20:2 yielding greater protection. After an initial response to α-GalCer, iNK T cells become anergic upon restimulation. While such anergic iNK T cells can induce tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) that mediate protection from T1D, chronic administration of α-GalCer also results in long-lasting anergy accompanied by significantly reduced iNK T cell frequencies, which raises concerns about its long-term therapeutic use. In this study, our objective was to understand more clearly the roles of anergy and induction of tolerogenic DCs in iNK T cell-mediated protection from T1D and to circumvent potential complications associated with α-GalCer. We demonstrate that NOD iNK T cells activated during multi-dose (MD) treatment in vivo with C20:2 enter into and exit from anergy more rapidly than after activation by α-GalCer. Importantly, this shorter duration of iNK T cells in the anergic state promotes the more rapid induction of tolerogenic DCs and reduced iNK T cell death, and enables C20:2 stimulated iNK T cells to elicit enhanced protection from T1D. Our findings further that suggest C20:2 is a more effective therapeutic drug than α-GalCer for protection from T1D. Moreover, the characteristics of C20:2 provide a basis of selection of next-generation iNK T cell agonists for the prevention of T1D.

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