A Comprehensive Guide to Antibody and T-cell Responses in Type 1 Diabetes

Tissue Antigens. 2003 Nov;62(5):359-77. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2003.00152.x.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an organ-specific autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreatic islets are selectively eliminated. T cells specific for beta-cell antigens are the mediators of this precise cellular destruction. However, antibodies to beta-cell proteins are also generated and may be used for predicting disease in at-risk populations. Over the past two decades, numerous beta-cell proteins and lipids have been implicated as autoantigens in patients or in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, a well-studied animal model of T1D. Here, we present a review of these antigens, accompanied by their T-cell epitopes, where known, and a discussion of our current understanding of why particular self-proteins become disease-inciting antigens. Although two dozen beta-cell antigens have been identified to date, few of these have been confirmed to be recognized by pathogenic T cells early in the disease process. Further identification and characterization of initiating beta-cell antigens targeted by pathogenic T cells should be a priority for future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antigens
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens