Identification of GAD65 AA 114-122 reactive 'memory-like' NK cells in newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic patients by HLA-class I pentamers

PLoS One. 2017 Dec 13;12(12):e0189615. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189615. eCollection 2017.


Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which pancreatic β cells are destroyed by autoreactive T cells in genetically predisposed individuals. Serum beta cell autoantibody specificities have represented the mainstay for classifying diabetes as autoimmune-mediated and for stratifying risk in first-degree relatives. In recent years, approaches were attempted to solve the difficult issue of detecting rare antigen-specific autoreactive T cells and their significance to etiopathogenesis such as the use of the MHC multimer technology. This tool allowed the specific detection of increased percentages of GAD65 autoreactive T cells by means of HLA A*02:01 GAD65 AA 114-122 pentamers in newly diagnosed diabetics. Here we provide evidence that GAD65 AA 114-122 pentamers can depict a GAD65 AA114-122 peptide expandable population of functionally and phenotypically skewed, preliminary characterized CD3-CD8dullCD56+ 'memory-like' NK cells in PBMC of newly diagnosed diabetics. Our data suggest that the NK cell subset could bind the HLA class I GAD65 AA 114-122 pentamer through ILT2 inhibitory receptor. CD107a expression revealed increased degranulation of CD3-CD8dullCD56+ NK cells in GAD65 AA 114-122 and FLU peptide expanded peripheral blood mononuclear cells of diabetics following GAD65 AA 114-122 peptide HLA A*02:01 presentation in respect to the unpulsed condition. CD107a expression was enriched in ILT2 positive NK cells. As opposite to basal conditions where similar percentages of CD3-CD56+ILT2+ cells were detected in diabetics and controls, CD3-CD56+CD107a+ and CD3-CD56+ILT2+CD107a+ cells were significantly increased in T1D PBMC either GAD65 AA 114-122 or FLU peptides stimulated after co-culture with GAD65 AA 114-122 pulsed APCs. As control, healthy donor NK cells showed similar degranulation against both GAD65 AA 114-122 pulsed and unpulsed APCs. The pathogenetic significance of the CD3-CD8dullCD56+ 'memory-like NK cell subset' with increased response upon secondary challenge in diabetics remains to be elucidated.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 2

Grant support

This work was supported by the Italian Ministry of Health Ricerca Corrente RC 201602P003714 (AF). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.