Repositioning the Early Pathology of Type 1 Diabetes to the Extraislet Vasculature

J Immunol. 2024 Apr 1;212(7):1094-1104. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2300769.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a prototypic T cell-mediated autoimmune disease. Because the islets of Langerhans are insulated from blood vessels by a double basement membrane and lack detectable lymphatic drainage, interactions between endocrine and circulating T cells are not permitted. Thus, we hypothesized that initiation and progression of anti-islet immunity required islet neolymphangiogenesis to allow T cell access to the islet. Combining microscopy and single cell approaches, the timing of this phenomenon in mice was situated between 5 and 8 wk of age when activated anti-insulin CD4 T cells became detectable in peripheral blood while peri-islet pathology developed. This "peri-insulitis," dominated by CD4 T cells, respected the islet basement membrane and was limited on the outside by lymphatic endothelial cells that gave it the attributes of a tertiary lymphoid structure. As in most tissues, lymphangiogenesis seemed to be secondary to local segmental endothelial inflammation at the collecting postcapillary venule. In addition to classic markers of inflammation such as CD29, V-CAM, and NOS, MHC class II molecules were expressed by nonhematopoietic cells in the same location both in mouse and human islets. This CD45- MHC class II+ cell population was capable of spontaneously presenting islet Ags to CD4 T cells. Altogether, these observations favor an alternative model for the initiation of T1D, outside of the islet, in which a vascular-associated cell appears to be an important MHC class II-expressing and -presenting cell.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1*
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II