To detect and characterize autoreactive T cells in diabetes-prone NOD mice, we have developed a multimeric MHC reagent with high affinity for the BDC-2.5 T cell receptor, which is reactive against a pancreatic autoantigen. A distinct population of T cells is detected in NOD mice that recognizes the same MHC/peptide target. These T cells are positively selected in the thymus at a surprisingly high frequency and exported to the periphery. They are activated specifically in the pancreatic LNs, demonstrating an autoimmune specificity that recapitulates that of the BDC-2.5 cell. These phenomena are also observed in mouse lines that share with NOD the H-2g7 MHC haplotype but carry diabetes-resistance background genes. Thus, a susceptible haplotype at the MHC seems to be the only element required for the selection and emergence of autoreactive T cells, without requiring other diabetogenic loci from the NOD genome.