We have used a reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) protocol to examine the expression of cytokines in the pancreases and islets of patients with type I diabetes. We detect a significant increase in the level of expression of interferon (IFN)-α in the pancreases of the diabetic patients as compared with the control pancreases. In contrast, IFN-β was detected at comparable levels in both groups, while IFN-γ was detected in three of four control pancreases and one of four pancreases from the diabetic individuals. The IFN-α cDNAs generated by the RT-PCR were cloned and sequenced to determine which α-subtypes were being expressed. We found that the repertoire of subtypes was quite limited in any one individual (diabetic or not), although each individual was different with respect to the pattern of subtypes expressed. We also examined these pancreases for the expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-2, IL-4, and IL-6. We found no detectable expression of TNF-α or IL-2 in any pancreases, and the expression of the other cytokines was variable, with no pattern emerging from the comparison of the diabetic and nondiabetic individuals. We conclude that, of the cytokines examined, only IFN-α was significantly increased in the diabetic patients, a result that is consistent with the possibility that this cytokine is directly involved in the development of type I diabetes.

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