Autoimmune diabetes (T1D) is characterized by CD4(+) T cell reactivity to a variety of islet-associated Ags. At-risk individuals, genetically predisposed to T1D, often have similar T cell reactivity, but nevertheless fail to progress to clinically overt disease. To study the immune tolerance and regulatory environment permissive for such autoreactive T cells, we expressed TCR transgenes derived from two autoreactive human T cells, 4.13 and 164, in HLA-DR4 transgenic mice on a C57BL/6-derived "diabetes-resistant" background. Both TCR are responsive to an immunodominant epitope of glutamic acid decarboxylase 65(555-567), which is identical in sequence between humans and mice, is restricted by HLA-DR4, and is a naturally processed self Ag associated with T1D. Although both TCR use the identical Valpha and Vbeta genes, differing only in CDR3, we found stark differences in the mechanisms utilized in vivo in the maintenance of immune tolerance. A combination of thymic deletion (negative selection), TCR down-regulation, and peripheral activation-induced cell death dominated the phenotype of 164 T cells, which nevertheless still maintain their Ag responsiveness in the periphery. In contrast, 4.13 T cells are much less influenced by central and deletional tolerance mechanisms, and instead display a peripheral immune deviation including differentiation into IL-10-secreting Tr1 cells. These findings indicate a distinct set of regulatory alternatives for autoreactive T cells, even within a single highly restricted HLA-peptide-TCR recognition profile.