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The mechanism by which islet beta cells are destroyed in type 1 diabetes is still unknown. Because in diabetes the majority of T cells activated in vivo express CD4 and the islet beta cells selectively express the HLA class II antigens needed for recognition by CD4-positive T cells, the possibility that selective damage to islet beta cells may be caused by CD4-positive cytotoxic cells was investigated. Activated T cells were cloned from a newly diagnosed diabetic patient, and many CD4 cytotoxic clones were detected. The clone with the highest cytolytic capacity lysed HLA class II compatible islet cells which had been induced by interferon gamma and tumour necrosis factor to express class II antigens. The specificity of the lysis was demonstrated by use of histoincompatible islets, other histocompatible target cells, and blocking by anti-class-II monoclonal antibodies. The results show that a CD4-positive T cell clone can lyse HLA class II matched islet cells; this process may be important in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





823 - 824


Adult, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, Cells, Cultured, Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, Female, Histocompatibility Antigens Class II, Humans, Islets of Langerhans, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic