Environmental triggers and determinants of type 1 diabetes

Diabetes. 2005 Dec:54 Suppl 2:S125-36. doi: 10.2337/diabetes.54.suppl_2.s125.


Type 1 diabetes is perceived as a chronic immune-mediated disease with a subclinical prodromal period characterized by selective loss of insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreatic islets in genetically susceptible subjects. A series of evidence supports a critical role of exogenous factors in the development of type 1 diabetes, such as 1) the fact that <10% of individuals with HLA-conferred diabetes susceptibility do progress to clinical disease, 2) a pairwise concordance of type 1 diabetes of <40% among monozygotic twins, 3) a more than 10-fold difference in the disease incidence among Caucasians living in Europe, 4) a several-fold increase in the incidence over the last 50 years, and 5) migration studies indicating that the disease incidence has increased in population groups who have moved from a low-incidence to a high-incidence region. This article discusses the trigger-booster hypothesis claiming that the diabetic disease process is triggered by an exogenous factor with definite seasonal variation and driven by one or several other environmental determinants. In addition, there are a series of modifying factors affecting the fate and pace of the process. Accordingly, progression to clinical type 1 diabetes typically requires the unfortunate combination of genetic disease susceptibility, a diabetogenic trigger, and a high exposure to a driving antigen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / immunology
  • Seasons