Non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice develop spontaneous T-cell responses against pancreatic beta-cells, leading to islet cell destruction and diabetes. Despite high genetic similarity, non-obese resistant (NOR) mice do not develop diabetes. We show here that spleen cells of both NOD and NOR mice respond to the islet cell antigen glutamic acid decarboxylase-65 in IFN-gamma-ELISPOT assays. Moreover, NOR-T cells induce periinsulitis in NOD SCID recipient mice. Thus, a potentially pathogenic islet cell-specific T-cell response arises in NOR and NOD mice alike; the mechanism that prevents the autoimmune progression of self-reactive T cells in NOR mice presumably acts at the level of effector function. Consistent with this hypothesis, CD4+CD25+ cell-depleted spleen cells from NOR mice mediated islet cell destruction and overt diabetes in NOD SCID mice. Therefore, islet cell-specific effector cells in NOR mice appear to be under the control of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, confirming the importance of regulatory cells in the control of autoimmune diabetes.