Nicotine reduces the incidence of type I diabetes in mice

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Mar;300(3):876-81. doi: 10.1124/jpet.300.3.876.


Nicotine has been previously shown to have immunosuppressive actions. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease resulting from the specific destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells. Thus, we hypothesized that nicotine may exert protective effects against type I diabetes. The multiple low-dose streptozotocin (MLDS)-induced model and spontaneous nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of type I diabetes were used to assess whether nicotine could prevent this autoimmune disease. Blood glucose levels, diabetes incidence, pancreas insulin content, and cytokine levels were measured in both models of diabetes, both to asses the level of protection exerted by nicotine and to further investigate its mechanism of action. Nicotine treatment reduced the hyperglycemia and incidence of disease in both the MLDS and NOD mouse models of diabetes. Nicotine also protected against the diabetes-induced decrease in pancreatic insulin content observed in both animal models. The pancreatic levels of the Th1 cytokines interleukin (IL)-12, IL-1, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and interferon (IFN)-gamma were increased in both MLDS-induced and spontaneous NOD diabetes, an effect prevented by nicotine treatment. Nicotine treatment increased the pancreatic levels of the Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-10. Nicotine treatment reduces the incidence of type I diabetes in two animal models by changing the profile of pancreatic cytokine expression from Th1 to Th2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nitrates / blood
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Pancreas / metabolism


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cytokines
  • Insulin
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nicotine