T lymphocyte response against pancreatic beta cell antigens in fulminant Type 1 diabetes

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Fulminant Type 1 diabetes is a novel subtype of Type 1 diabetes that involves the abrupt onset of insulin-deficient hyperglycaemia. This subtype appears to be non-autoimmune because of the absence of diabetes-related autoantibodies in the serum, and of insulitis in pancreatic biopsy specimens. The pathogenesis of the disease is still unknown. In this study, we investigated whether T cell autoimmune responses are involved in fulminant Type 1 diabetes.


Cellular immune responses to beta cell autoantigens were studied by enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay in 13 fulminant Type 1 diabetic patients and 49 autoantibody-positive autoimmune Type 1 diabetic patients. Results were compared with those of 18 Type 2 diabetic patients, six secondary diabetic patients (diabetes due to chronic pancreatitis) and 35 healthy controls.


Nine of 13 (69.2%) GAD-reactive Th1 cells, and three of 12 (25%) insulin-B9-23-reactive Th1 cells were identified in fulminant Type 1 diabetic patients by ELISPOT, as in autoantibody-positive Type 1 diabetic patients. Four fulminant Type 1 diabetic patients possessed the highly diabetes-resistant allele DR2, three of whom had GAD-reactive Th1 cells in the periphery.


Peripheral immune reaction was observed in 69.2% of fulminant Type 1 diabetic patients, indicating that autoreactive T cells might contribute, at least in part, to the development of fulminant Type 1 diabetes.

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