Type 1 diabetes results from the breakdown of peripheral tolerance. As regulators of T cell activation, antigen-presenting cells (APC) modulate peripheral tolerance and hence contribute to the immune dysregulation characteristic of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). We initially observed an increased importance of NOD B cell APC function in a T cell priming assay as compared to non-autoimmune strains. Consistent with this increased APC function, we found that NF-kappa B nuclear translocation is increased in unmanipulated NOD and NOD.B10Sn-H2(b) B cells and that, in addition, NOD B cells are more sensitive to NF-kappa B-activating stimuli. We obtained similar results using NOD bone marrow-derived dendritic cell (BMDC) cultures. As costimulatory molecules have been shown to be NF-kappa B responsive, we examined the expression of these markers on NOD APC. Both B cells and BMDC expressed elevated levels of CD80 and CD40. Finally, NOD B cells provided better allostimulation than B cells from non-autoimmune strains. Therefore, hyperactivation of NF-kappa B and increased expression of CD80 and CD40 by NOD B cells and BMDC may be a contributing factor in the selection of effector T cells observed in IDDM.