The nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse has recently been introduced as a model for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The role of regulatory T cells in the development of antipancreatic autoimmunity in this model remains unclear. To evaluate the presence of suppressive phenomena, we used disease transfer by spleen cells from diabetic NOD mice into preirradiated adult recipients as a model for accelerated disease. Suppressor phenomena were detected by testing the protection afforded by lymphoid cells from nondiabetic NOD mice against diabetes transfer in irradiated recipients. Transfer of diabetes was delayed by reconstituting recipients with spleen cells from nondiabetic NOD donors. The greatest protection against diabetes transfer was conferred by spleen cells from 8-wk-old nondiabetic female NOD mice. Depletion experiments showed that the protection was dependent on CD4+ cells. Protection was also detected within thymic cells from nondiabetic NOD mice and protection conferred by spleen cells was abrogated by thymectomy of nondiabetic female, but not male, NOD donors at 3 wk of age. These findings indicate that suppressive CD4+ T cells that are dependent on the presence of the thymus may delay the onset of diabetes in female diabetes-prone NOD mice.

This content is only available as a PDF.