Identification of autoantibody-negative autoimmune type 2 diabetic patients

Diabetes Care. 2011 Jan;34(1):168-73. doi: 10.2337/dc10-0579. Epub 2010 Sep 20.


Objective: Islet autoimmunity has long been recognized in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes and is becoming increasingly acknowledged as a component in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. Islet reactive T cells and autoantibodies have been demonstrated in type 1 diabetes, whereas islet autoimmunity in type 2 diabetes has been limited to islet autoantibodies. In this study, we investigated whether islet reactive T cells might also be present in type 2 diabetic patients and how islet reactive T cells correlate with β-cell function.

Research design and methods: Adult phenotypic type 2 diabetic patients (n = 36) were screened for islet reactive T-cell responses using cellular immunoblotting and five islet autoantibodies (islet cell antibody, GADA, insulin autoantibody, insulinoma-associated protein-2 autoantibody, and zinc transporter autoantibody).

Results: We identified four subgroups of adult phenotypic type 2 diabetic patients based on their immunological status (Ab(-)T(-), Ab(+)T(-), Ab(-)T(+), and Ab(+)T(+)). The Ab(-)T(+) type 2 diabetic patients demonstrated T-cell responses similar to those of the Ab(+)T(+) type 2 diabetic patients. Data were adjusted for BMI, insulin resistance, and duration of diabetes. Significant differences (P < 0.02) were observed among groups for fasting and glucagon-stimulated C-peptide responses. T-cell responses to islet proteins were also demonstrated to fluctuate less than autoantibody responses.

Conclusions: We have identified a group of adult autoimmune phenotypic type 2 diabetic patients who are Ab(-)T(+) and thus would not be detected using autoantibody testing alone. We conclude that islet autoimmunity may be more prevalent in adult phenotypic type 2 diabetic patients than previously estimated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • C-Peptide / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • C-Peptide
  • islet cell antibody