The notably lobular distribution of immune lesions in type 1 diabetes (T1D) has been hypothesized to be the result of innervation within the pancreas. To investigate whether neuroimmune interactions could explain this phenomenon, we explored the impact of sympathetic signaling in the RIP-LCMV-GP mouse model of autoimmune diabetes. In this model, the CD8+ T cell attack on β cells replicates a key pathogenic feature of human T1D. We found that inhibition of α1 adrenoceptors, ablation of sympathetic nerves, and surgical denervation all had a protective effect in this model, without affecting the systemic presence of β cell-reactive CD8+ T cells. In vivo multiphoton imaging revealed a local effect within pancreatic islets including limited infiltration of both macrophages and β cell-specific CD8+ T cells. Islet-resident macrophages expressed adrenoceptors and were responsive to catecholamines. Islet macrophages may therefore constitute a pivotal neuroimmune signaling relay and could be a target for future interventions in T1D.
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