An immunohistochemical study of macrophage influx and the co-localization of inducible nitric oxide synthase in the pancreas of non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice during disease acceleration with cyclophosphamide

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Cyclophosphamide has been used to accelerate and synchronize diabetes in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. It was injected to 70-day-old female NOD mice and its effect on the progression of insulitis studied at days 0, 4, 7, 11 and at onset of diabetes. Pancreatic sections were also examined for the influx of CD4 and CD8 T cells and macrophages following immunofluorescence staining. The kinetics of macrophage immunoreactive cells in the exocrine and intra-islet areas were also investigated. Light and confocal microscopy were employed to examine the expression and co-localization of inducible nitric oxide synthase following dual- and triple-label immunofluorescence histochemistry. After cyclophosphamide administration, the severity of insulitis remained similar from days 0 to 4 but began to rise at day 7 and markedly by day 11 and at onset of diabetes. At these two later stages, the insulitis scores were close to 100% while in age-matched control groups the insulitis scores were considerably lower. Immunohistochemical staining showed increasing numbers of CD4 and CD8 T cell subsets and macrophages within the islets and in exocrine, sinusoidal and peri-vascular regions. At onset of diabetes, several islets contained prominent clusters of macrophage immunoreactive cells. Macrophage influx into the islets increased sharply from day 7 (mean number per islet: 119 ± 54 SEM), peaked at day 11 (mean number per islet: 228 ± 42), and then declined at onset of diabetes (mean number per islet: 148 ± 49). Several cells with immunolabelling for inducible nitric oxide synthase were detectable from day 7 onwards until the onset of diabetes. Dual- and triple-label immunohistochemistry showed that a significant proportion of macrophages and only a few beta cells contained the enzyme. Macrophages positive for the enzyme were located as clusters or occasionally contiguously, in the peri-islet and intra-islet areas but rarely in the exocrine region. Islets with minimal distribution of macrophages in the peri-islet areas were not positive for inducible nitric oxide synthase. Beta cells positive for the enzyme were observed in islets with significant macrophage infiltration in locations close to macrophages. The present results show that cyclophosphamide administration to female NOD mice results in a rapid influx of CD4 and CD8 cells and macrophages. The marked up-regulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase in a selective proportion of macrophages, within the islets, immediately preceding and during the onset of diabetes suggests that nitric oxide released by islet macrophages may be an important molecular mediator of beta cell destruction in this accelerated model of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

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