Previous studies have implicated B lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of diabetes in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse. While it is clear that B lymphocytes are necessary, it has not been clear at which stage of disease they play a role; early, late or both. To clarify when B lymphocytes are needed, T lymphocytes were transferred from 5-week-old NOD female mice to age-matched NOD/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) recipient mice. NOD/SCID mice, which lack functionally mature T and B lymphocytes, do not normally develop insulitis or insulin-dependent diabetes melitus (IDDM). The NOD/SCID mice that received purified T lymphocytes from 5-week-old NOD mice subsequently developed insulitis and diabetes even though they did not have detectable B lymphocytes. This suggests that while B lymphocytes may be essential for an initial priming event they are not requisite for disease progression in the NOD mouse.