Narrowing in on the anti-β cell-specific T cells: looking ‘where the action is’

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Purpose of review

By necessity, the vast majority of information we have on autoreactive T cells in human type 1 diabetes (T1D) has come from the study of peripheral blood of donors with T1D. It is not clear how representative the peripheral autoreactive T-cell repertoire is of the autoreactive T cells infiltrating the islets in T1D. We will summarize and discuss what is known of the immunohistopathology of insulitis, the T-cell receptor repertoire expressed by islet-infiltrating T cells, and the autoreactivity and function of islet-infiltrating T cells in T1D.

Recent findings

Recovery and analysis of live, islet-infiltrating T cells from the islets of cadaveric donors with T1D revealed a broad repertoire and proinflammatory phenotype of CD4+ T-cell autoreactivity to peptide targets from islet proteins, including proinsulin, as well as CD4+ T-cell reactivity to a number of post-translationally modified peptides, including peptides with citrullinations and hybrid insulin peptide fusions. Islet-infiltrating CD8+ T cells were also derived and required further isolation and characterization.


The recovery of live, islet-infiltrating T cells from donors with T1D, reactive with a broad range of known targets and post-translationally modified peptides, allows for the specific functional analysis of islet-infiltrating T cells for the development of antigen-specific immunotherapies.

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