We previously demonstrated that a spontaneous Th1 response against glutamate decarboxylase (GAD65) arises in NOD mice at four weeks in age and subsequently T cell autoimmunity spreads both intramolecularly and intermolecularly. Induction of passive tolerance to GAD65, through inactivation of reactive T cells before the onset of autoimmunity, prevented determinant spreading and the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Here, we examined whether an alternative strategy, designed to induce active tolerance via the engagement of Th2 immune responses to GAD65, before the spontaneous onset of autoimmunity, could inhibit the cascade of Th1 responses that lead to IDDM. We observed that a single intranasal administration of GAD65 peptides to 2-3-wk-old NOD mice induced high levels of IgG1 antibodies to GAD65. GAD65 peptide treated mice displayed greatly reduced IFN gamma responses and increased IL-5 responses to GAD65, confirming the diversion of the spontaneous GAD65 Th1 response toward a Th2 phenotype. Consistent with the induction of an active tolerance mechanism, splenic CD4+ (but not CD8+) T cells from GAD65 peptide-treated mice, inhibited the adoptive transfer of IDDM to NOD-scid/scid mice. This active mechanism not only inhibited the development of proliferative T cell responses to GAD65, it also limited the expansion of autoreactive T cell responses to other beta cell antigens (i.e., determinant spreading). Finally, GAD65 peptide treatment reduced insulitis and long-term IDDM incidence. Collectively, these data suggest that the nasal administration of GAD65 peptides induces a Th2 cell response that inhibits the spontaneous development of autoreactive Th1 responses and the progression of beta cell autoimmunity in NOD mice.

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