Neoepitopes in Type 1 Diabetes: Etiological Insights, Biomarkers and Therapeutic Targets

Front Immunol. 2021 Apr 19;12:667989. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.667989. eCollection 2021.


The mechanisms underlying type 1 diabetes (T1D) pathogenesis remain largely unknown. While autoantibodies to pancreatic beta-cell antigens are often the first biological response and thereby a useful biomarker for identifying individuals in early stages of T1D, their role in T1D pathogenesis is not well understood. Recognition of these antigenic targets by autoreactive T-cells plays a pathological role in T1D development. Recently, several beta-cell neoantigens have been described, indicating that both neoantigens and known T1D antigens escape central or peripheral tolerance. Several questions regarding the mechanisms by which tolerance is broken in T1D remain unanswered. Further delineating the timing and nature of antigenic responses could allow their use as biomarkers to improve staging, as targets for therapeutic intervention, and lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms leading to loss of tolerance. Multiple factors that contribute to cellular stress may result in the generation of beta-cell derived neoepitopes and contribute to autoimmunity. Understanding the cellular mechanisms that induce beta-cells to produce neoantigens has direct implications on development of therapies to intercept T1D disease progression. In this perspective, we will discuss evidence for the role of neoantigens in the pathogenesis of T1D, including antigenic responses and cellular mechanisms. We will additionally discuss the pathways leading to neoepitope formation and the cross talk between the immune system and the beta-cells in this regard. Ultimately, delineating the timing of neoepitope generation in T1D pathogenesis will determine their role as biomarkers as well as therapeutic targets.

Keywords: autoantigens; beta-cell; biomarker; neoepitopes; pathogenesis; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Death
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Epitopes*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / immunology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Autoantigens
  • Biomarkers
  • Epitopes

Grants and funding