IDDM results from the destruction of pancreatic (β-cells by autoreactive T-cells that appear to avoid deletion early in development, possibly due to improper interaction with antigen-presenting cells (APCs) resident in the thymus or periphery. In the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse, there exists a defect in APC function characterized by its failure to fully mature upon stimulation. The NOD mouse thus provides an excellent model for the investigation of APC dysfunction and development and how these relate to the incidence of autoimmune diabetes. We initiated studies of APC function in the NOD mouse with respect to antigen processing and presentation, using a well-characterized antigen hen egg lysozyme (HEL) and comparing it with the closely related, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) (I-Ag7) identical, diabetes-resistant mouse strain NOR. Proliferation assays comparing NOD and NOR HEL-specific T-cells demonstrated that the T-cell proliferation response of the NOD mouse to both native and denatured forms of the antigen is lower than that of NOR. When crisscross proliferation experiments were conducted using purified Tcells and irradiated spleen cells as APCs from both strains, the results demonstrated that the defect in proliferation resided in the APC compartment of activation. The levels of intracellular glutathione (GSH) were compared in splenic macrophages from NOD and NOR mice; it was found that on antigenic stimulation, NOR macrophages produced significantly more intracellular GSH than did NOD macrophages, even under hyperglycemic (50 mmol/l glucose) conditions. The lower amount of GSH seen in the NOD may result in less efficient processing of antigen, and subsequently, lower levels of T-cell activation.

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