To investigate the role of RT6+ T cells in the pathogenesis of diabetes in BB/W rats, we treated animals from the diabetes-resistant (DR) subline with anti-RT6.1 lymphocytotoxic mAb. This depleted greater than 95% of peripheral RT6+ T cells but did not substantially reduce levels of circulating T cells or the in vitro response of spleen cells to mitogen. Treatment of 30-d-old DR BB/W rats in this way: induced insulitis and diabetes, rendered nondiabetic RT6-depleted DR rats susceptible to the adoptive transfer of diabetes by spleen cells from acutely diabetic BB/W rats, and yielded DR spleen cell populations capable of the adoptive transfer of diabetes to diabetes-prone (DP) or DR recipients. Treatment of DR rats beginning at 60 d of age failed to produce these effects. These results suggest that both susceptibility and resistance to diabetes in the BB/W rat are in part regulated by the RT6+ T cell subset and provide evidence for the importance of regulatory T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity and diabetes in BB/W rats.

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