Acceleration of the onset of diabetes in NOD mice by thymectomy at weaning

Eur J Immunol. 1989 May;19(5):889-95. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830190516.


The effect of thymectomy performed at weaning (3 weeks) and at 6-7 weeks of age on the incidence of diabetes was examined in the non-Obese diabetic (NOD) mouse, a spontaneous model of immunologically mediated insulin-dependent diabetes similar to human type I diabetes. When performed at weaning, thymectomy led to a dramatic increase in the incidence of diabetes in NOD females in comparison to sham-thymectomized animals. Conversely, no change in the incidence of the disease or the expression of insulitis was noted when thymectomy was performed in NOD males. When delayed beyond 6-7 weeks of age, thymectomy had no effect on NOD males and females. Flow cytometry analysis of spleen cells from intact mice and mice thymectomized at weaning or at 6-7 weeks of age demonstrated a significant depletion of the T cell subsets in both groups of thymectomized animals. These results indicate that the onset of diabetes in NOD mice is submitted to thymic regulation and that the T cell depletion induced by thymectomy at weaning accelerates the disease, an effect possibly due to the loss of some T cell-dependent suppressor mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology*
  • Female
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / classification
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Thymectomy
  • Weaning