Mast cells have been invoked as important players in immune responses associated with autoimmune diseases. Based on in vitro studies, or in vivo through the use of Kit mutant mice, mast cells have been suggested to play immunological roles in direct antigen presentation to both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, in the regulation of T-cell and dendritic cell migration to lymph nodes, and in Th1 versus Th2 polarization, all of which could significantly impact the immune response against self-antigens in autoimmune disease, including type 1 diabetes (T1D). Until now, the role of mast cells in the onset and incidence of T1D has only been indirectly tested through the use of low-specificity mast cell inhibitors and activators, and published studies reported contrasting results. Our three laboratories have generated independently two strains of mast cell-deficient nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, NOD.Cpa3(Cre/+) (Heidelberg) and NOD.Kit(W-sh/W-sh) (Leuven and Boston), to address the effects of mast cell deficiency on the development of T1D in the NOD strain. Our collective data demonstrate that both incidence and progression of T1D in NOD mice are independent of mast cells. Moreover, analysis of pancreatic lymph node cells indicated that lack of mast cells has no discernible effect on the autoimmune response, which involves both innate and adaptive immune components. Our results demonstrate that mast cells are not involved in T1D in the NOD strain, making their role in this process nonessential and excluding them as potential therapeutic targets.
© 2014 by the American Diabetes Association. Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered.