T cell responses toward pancreatic beta cell autoantigens arise spontaneously or on immunization in many mouse strains, yet sustained islet infiltration and progressive diabetes rarely ensues. Most mouse diabetes models overcome the innocuous coexistence of anti-islet specific T cells and endogenous islets via incompletely understood mechanisms (e.g. the spontaneous disease onset of the non-obese diabetic mouse) or depend on overwhelming numbers of peripheral islet-specific T cells. We report that insulin promoter murine CD80 (RIP-CD80) transgenic mice are extraordinarily susceptible to autoantigen-induced diabetes, while spontaneous disease is rare. Autoimmunity to the pancreatic beta cell-expressed glycoprotein (GP) of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) was elicited by a single injection of syngeneic fibroblastoid cell lines (FCL) loaded with the immunodominant LCMV-GP peptide, gp33. While both RIP-GP(+)and RIP-CD80(+)GP(+)mice mounted moderate CD4-independent CTL responses, only CD80(+)GP(+)mice developed severe insulitis and diabetes due to islet-infiltration of activated, gp33-specific, CD8(+)T cells. Strikingly, DNA immunization using plasmids encoding LCMV-GP or murine preproinsulin also efficiently induced Ag-specific RIP-CD80-dependent diabetes. We conclude that aberrant CD80-expression in a peripheral tissue disrupts that tissue's natural resistance to CD8 T cell-mediated autoimmune destruction. This rodent model thus represents a novel approach to identify beta cell-derived autoantigenic determinants involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diabetes, and may also serve as a prototype approach to uncover relevant autoantigens leading to a variety of organ-specific autoimmune disorders.