TCR transgenic mice are valuable tools for dissecting the role of autoantigen-specific T cells in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes but are time-consuming to generate and backcross onto congenic strains. To circumvent these limitations, we developed a new approach to rapidly generate mice expressing TCR using retroviral-mediated stem cell gene transfer and a novel picornavirus-like 2A peptide to link the TCR alpha- and beta-chains in a single retroviral vector. We refer to these as retrogenic (Rg) mice to avoid confusion with conventional transgenic mice. Our approach was validated by demonstrating that Rg nonobese diabetic (NOD)-scid mice expressing the diabetogenic TCRs, BDC2.5 and 4.1, generate clonotype-positive T cells and develop diabetes. We then expressed three TCR specific for either glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) 206-220 or GAD 524-538 or for hen egg lysozyme 11-25 as a control in NOD, NOD-scid, and B6.H2(g7) mice. Although T cells from these TCR Rg mice responded to their respective Ag in vitro, the GAD-specific T cells exhibited a naive, resting phenotype in vivo. However, T cells from Rg mice challenged with Ag in vivo became activated and developed into memory cells. Neither of the GAD-reactive TCR accelerated or protected mice from diabetes, nor did activated T cells transfer or protect against diabetes in NOD-scid recipients, suggesting that GAD may not be a primary target for diabetogenic T cells. Generation of autoantigen-specific TCR Rg mice represents a powerful approach for the analysis of a wide variety of autoantigens.