CD11a/ICAM-1 blockade combined with IL-2 targeting therapy causes a paradoxical acceleration of type 1 diabetes

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Enhancement of regulatory T-cell (Treg) function is the goal of many immunotherapies aimed at treating type 1 diabetes (T1D). The use of interleukin (IL)-2 is hindered by its effects on other populations such as effector T cells and NK cells. Combination therapies aimed at suppressing effector T cells while using IL-2 to expand Tregs could be beneficial and have been trialed in T1D patients. We have investigated a combination therapy using IL-2 and αCD11a blocking antibody to simultaneously expand Tregs and suppress the activation and migration of autoreactive T cells. When non-obese diabetic mice were treated with lowdose IL-2/anti-IL-2 complexes (IL-2c) and αCD11a, significant Treg expansion occurred in both the spleen and pancreas. Activation and IFNγ production by islet-specific T cells was robustly suppressed in the periphery following IL-2c/αCD11a treatment. Surprisingly, combination therapy accelerated diabetes onset compared with control treatments. Analysis of IL-2 responsive populations found that combination therapy increased the activation of CD8+ T cells and natural killer (NK) cells specifically within the pancreas despite concomitant Treg expansion. Blocking effector T-cell migration with the inhibitor FTY720 together with IL-2c treatment also resulted in intra-pancreatic expansion of effector cell populations. Thus, inhibiting effector T-cell migration into the islets unleashes islet-resident pathogenic effectors in the presence of low doses of exogenous IL-2.

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