Islets of Langerhans of all species harbor a small number of resident macrophages. These macrophages are found since birth, do not exchange with blood monocytes, and are maintained by a low level of replication. Under steady state conditions, the islet macrophages are in an activated state. Islet macrophages have an important homeostatic role in islet physiology. At the start of the autoimmune process in the NOD mouse, a small number of CD103+ dendritic cells (DC) are found at about the same time that CD4+ T cells also appear in islets. In the absence of the CD103+ DC in the Batf3 deficient mice, autoimmunity never develops. We discuss the interactions among the two phagocytes and beta cells that result in autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice.
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