The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of dendritic cell (DC) transfers on the incidence of diabetes in female nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice. Groups of 4-wk-old NOD female mice were given a single foot pad of DCs (70-90% purity) isolated from the draining lymph nodes (LN) of the pancreas (PLN), the cervical LNs, or the axillary/inguinal LNs. In addition, other groups of NOD mice received purified spleen DCs, purified PLN T cells (the major contaminating population in DC preparations), or the injection vehicle PBS. All groups were monitored for diabetes for one year. Significant protection from diabetes was observed in NOD mice receiving greater than 1 x 10(4) PLN DCs in comparison to mice receiving other DCs populations, PLN T cells, or PBS (P less than 0.05). The pancreata of NOD mice that received PLN DCs demonstrated significantly lower levels of lymphocytic infiltration in the islets that age-sex matched nondiabetic female NOD control mice (P less than 0.05). LN cells from nondiabetic NOD mice that received PLN DC protected irradiated female recipients from the adoptive transfer of diabetes to a greater degree than LN cells from age and sex matched nondiabetic female NOD mice that did not receive PLN DC transfers at 36 d (P = 0.014) and at 1 yr (P = 0.0015) after transfer. These data suggest that the PLN DC transfers are able to modulate autoimmunity and limit diabetes expression in the NOD mouse. PLN DCs transfers may regulate autoimmunity by the induction of regulatory cells.