BB rats exhibit a syndrome of spontaneous diabetes that has clinical and pathological characteristics analogous to those found in human insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Islet tissue transplanted into spontaneously diabetic BB rats is uniformly destroyed by a recurrence of the autoimmune response that destroyed the diabetic subject's native islets. To examine recurrent autoimmune destruction of transplanted islets, it is necessary to exclude islet damage that might result from allograft rejection. We utilized neonatal tolerance induction to prevent rejection of Wistar-Furth (WF) (RT1u) islet allografts by spontaneously diabetic BB recipients. We determined that islet-recipient treatment with anti-asialo-GM1 (anti-AGM1) antibody prevents recurrent autoimmune diabetes that would otherwise destroy transplanted WF islet grafts. Anti-AGM1 therapy significantly decreased peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cell activity. These data suggest a role for NK cells in the pathogenesis of recurrent diabetes in neonatally tolerant BB rats.

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