Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an inflammatory state associated with immune responses in polymorphonuclear cells (PMN). Activation of subgroup of T-lymphocytes in PMN of DKA patients, however, is not known. We studied in vivo activation of CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes by measuring de novo growth factor receptor for insulin, IGF-1, and IL-2 in eight patients on admission and at resolution of DKA, and compared them with matched controls. The presence of these receptors was demonstrated in all patients' lymphocytes on admission, but not in control subjects. This event was associated with increased levels of thiobarbituric acid-reacting material and dichlorofluorescien, as markers of oxidative stress. Based on these new findings and works in the literature, we hypothesize that hyperglycemia/ketosis results in increased reactive oxygen species, leading to increased levels of cytokines and emergence of growth factor receptors. We propose DKA changes the T-lymphocytes to insulin sensitive tissues as a compensatory mechanism.