Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a disease in which autoimmune attacks are directed at the insulin-producing β-cell in the pancreatic islet. Autoantigens on the β-cell surface membrane are specific markers for molecular recognition and targets for engagement by autoreactive B lymphocytes, which produce islet cell surface autoantibody (ICSA) upon activation. We report the cloning of an ICSA (mAb43) that recognizes a major T1D autoantigen, ZnT8, with a subnanomolar binding affinity and conformation specificity. We demonstrate that cell-surface binding of mAb43 protects the extracellular epitope of ZnT8 against immunolabeling by serum ICSA from a patient with T1D. Furthermore, mAb43 exhibits in vitro and ex vivo specificity for islet cells, mirroring the exquisite specificity of islet autoimmunity in T1D. Systemic administration of mAb43 yields a pancreas-specific biodistribution in mice and islet homing of an mAb43-linked imaging payload through the pancreatic vasculature, thereby validating the in vivo specificity of mAb43. Identifying ZnT8 as a major antigenic target of ICSA allows for research into the molecular recognition and engagement of autoreactive B cells in the chronic phase of T1D progression. The in vivo islet specificity of mAb43 could be further exploited to develop in vivo imaging and islet-specific immunotherapies.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.21518892.

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