Recent studies suggest that insulin is a primary autoantigen for type 1 diabetes. Several studies have identified preproinsulin (PPI) 76-90 as an immunodominant CD4+ T cell epitope. We developed a class II tetramer reagent using a modified PPI peptide with a lysine to serine substitution at position 88 (PPI 78-90(88S)) that has high binding affinity to DRA1*0101/DRB1*0401 (DR0401). Using this tetramer, positive responses were observed from both DR0401 healthy and type 1 diabetic subjects when T cells were stimulated with the PPI 78-90(88S) peptide. Seventy percent of these T cells proliferated in response to both the wild type PPI 76-90 and PPI 78-90(88S) peptides. However, when T cells were stimulated with wild type peptide and assayed with DR0401/PPI 78-90(88S), positive responses were only detected in the diabetic group but not in healthy subjects. When highly purified CD4+CD25-CD45RA+ T cells were stimulated with PPI 78-90(88S) peptide in the absence of antigen-presenting cells, T cells from the diabetic group were able to respond to peptide stimulation, while T cells from healthy subjects were not. These data suggest that T cells from type 1 diabetic subjects have a lower threshold of activation in response to PPI peptide stimulation as compared to healthy subjects.