Pancreatic beta cell destruction in type 1 diabetes is mediated by cytotoxic CD8(+) T lymphoctyes (CTL). Granzyme B is an effector molecule used by CTL to kill target cells. We previously showed that granzyme B-deficient allogeneic CTL inefficiently killed pancreatic islets in vitro. We generated granzyme B-deficient non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice to test whether granzyme B is an important effector molecule in spontaneous type 1 diabetes. Granzyme B-deficient islet antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells had impaired homing into islets of young mice. Insulitis was reduced in granzyme B-deficient mice at 70 days of age (insulitis score 0.043±0.019 in granzyme B-deficient versus 0.139±0.034 in wild-type NOD mice p<0.05), but was similar to wild-type at 100 and 150 days of age. We observed a reduced frequency of CD3(+)CD8(+) T cells in the islets and peripheral lymphoid tissues of granzyme B-deficient mice (p<0.005 and p<0.0001 respectively), but there was no difference in cell proportions in the thymus. Antigen-specific CTL developed normally in granzyme B-deficient mice, and were able to kill NOD islet target cells as efficiently as wild-type CTL in vitro. The incidence of spontaneous diabetes in granzyme B-deficient mice was the same as wild-type NOD mice. We observed a delayed onset of diabetes in granzyme B-deficient CD8-dependent NOD8.3 mice (median onset 102.5 days in granzyme B-deficient versus 57.50 days in wild-type NOD8.3 mice), which may be due to the delayed onset of insulitis or inefficient priming at an earlier age in this accelerated model of diabetes. Our data indicate that granzyme B is dispensable for beta cell destruction in type 1 diabetes, but is required for efficient early activation of CTL.