Peptide-specific cytotoxicity of T lymphocytes against glutamic acid decarboxylase and insulin in type 1 diabetes mellitus

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2001 Mar;51(3):173-9. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8227(00)00225-4.


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) against pancreatic beta-cells probably play a major role in the etiology of type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM). CTLs recognize a complex formed between MHC class I and antigenic peptides fragments derived from intracellular processing of proteins. However, the exogenous peptides, which show strong affinities to MHC class I, can be presented. In this study, we focused on the cytotoxic activity of peripheral lymphocytes in patients with type 1 DM against the peptides of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) and insulin, which can bind MHC class 1 A24. Lymphocytes were isolated from peripheral blood of 12 type 1 DM patients and eight healthy control subjects. The effector cells were cultured with peptides, IL-2 and IL-7, restimulated weekly by autologous antigen presenting cells, which were cultured with IL-4 and GM-CSF. On day 21, CTL activities of cultured effector cells were tested against autologous EB-blast cells as target cells pulsed with the stimulating peptides using 51Cr release assay. The results showed that cytotoxicity against insulin peptide binding to MHC class I A24 was observed in lymphocytes of four out of ten patients with type 1 DM. The mean cytotoxicity was 46.0% of the maximum release. The antibody against HLA-class I inhibited this effect. Cytotoxicity against GAD peptide which bind MHC class I A24 was not observed in seven patients. None of healthy controls showed cytotoxicity against GAD or insulin peptides was observed. This is the first report describing the cytotoxic activity of CD8+ T lymphocytes against insulin in type 1 DM.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / immunology*
  • HLA-A Antigens / immunology*
  • HLA-A24 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Insulin / immunology*
  • Insulin Antibodies / immunology*
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-A24 Antigen
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Antibodies
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase