Evidence for superantigen involvement in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus aetiology

Nature. 1994 Sep 22;371(6495):351-5. doi: 10.1038/371351a0.


Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is a T-cell-mediated autoimmune disease whose onset is believed to be triggered by unknown environmental factors acting on a predisposing genetic background. Islet-infiltrating T (IIT) cells from two IDDM patients, who had died at the onset of the disease from brain swelling as a complication of ketoacidosis, were analysed. The results provided evidence for the involvement of a pancreatic islet cell membrane-bound superantigen as a diabetes aetiopathogenetic factor. There was a selective expansion of a T-cell receptor (TCR) variable segment of the beta-chain (V beta 7) in these IIT cells in association with unselected V alpha-chain segments; extensive junctional diversity of the TCR V beta 7 chains; and evidence of positive selection, after exposure to diabetic islet cell membrane preparations, of V beta 7+ T-cell clones among peripheral blood lymphocytes from non-diabetic individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoradiography
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Membrane / immunology
  • Child
  • Clone Cells
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology*
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Superantigens / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Autoantigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Superantigens