Net synthesis of pancreatic β-cells peaks before 2 years of life. β-Cell mass is set within the first 5 years of life. In-frame translational readthrough of the NRP1 gene exon 9 into intron 9 generates a truncated neuropilin-1 protein lacking downstream sequence necessary for binding VEGF that stimulates β-cell replication. VEGF is critical for developing but not adult islet neogenesis. Herein we show that cells in human pancreatic islets containing the full-length neuropilin-1 possess insulin but cells that contain the truncated neuropilin-1 are devoid of insulin. Decreased insulin cells increases susceptibility to onset of type 1 diabetes at a younger age. We also show that the frequency of a genetic marker in NRP1 intron 9 is higher among patients with onset of type 1 diabetes before age 4 years (31.8%), including those with onset at 0.67–2.00 and 2–4 years, compared with that in patients with onset at 4–8 years, at 8–12 years, and after 16 years (16.1%) with frequency equal to that in subjects without diabetes (16.0%). Decreased insulin cells plus the genetic data are consistent with a low effect mechanism that alters the onset of type 1 diabetes to a very young age in some patients, thus supporting the endotype concept that type 1 diabetes is a heterogeneous disease.

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L.A.F. is currently affiliated with Division of Intra-abdominal Transplantation, Department of Surgery, Loyola University Medical Center and Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL.

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