CD8⁺ T cells specific for islet-specific glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit-related protein (IGRP) have been implicated in type 1 diabetes in both humans and non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, in which T cells specific for IGRP₂₀₆₋₂₁₄ are highly prevalent. We sought to manipulate these pathogenic T cells by exploiting the ability of steady-state dendritic cells (DCs) to present antigens in a tolerogenic manner. The endocytic receptor DEC-205 was utilized to deliver an IGRP₂₀₆₋₂₁₄ mimotope to DCs in NOD mice, and the impact of this delivery on a polyclonal population of endogenous islet-reactive cognate T cells was determined. Assessment of islet-infiltrating CD8⁺ T cells showed a decrease in the percentage, and the absolute number, of endogenous IGRP₂₀₆₋₂₁₄-specific T cells when the mimotope was delivered to DCs, compared with delivery of a specificity control. Employing an adoptive transfer system, deletion of CD8⁺ T cells as a result of DEC-205-mediated antigen targeting was found to occur independently of programmed death-1 (PD-1) and its ligand (PD-L1), both often implicated in the regulation of peripheral T-cell tolerance. Given its promise for the manipulation of self-reactive polyclonal T cells demonstrated here, the distinctive characteristics of this antigen delivery system will be important to appreciate as its potential as an intervention for autoimmune diseases continues to be investigated.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; NOD mice; diabetes.