A longitudinal study of circulating autoantibodies in the sera of 48 BB rats was performed by indirect immunofluorescence. No pancreatic islet cell, adrenocortical, or thyroid microsomal autoantibodies were found. However, autoantibodies reactive to gastric parietal cells (PCA), smooth muscle, and thyroid colloidal antigens were identified, PCA were not detected in Wistar-Furth or BB × Wistar-Furth F1 hybrid rats. The range of ages at the time of first appearance of PCA was the same as that of onset of insulin-dependent diabetes (IDD) in the BB rats, suggesting that the processes leading to PCA and IDD were occurring at the same time of life in these animals. The presence of PCA was associated with degrees of lymphocytic gastritis and with squamous metaplasia of the gastric mucosa in the oldest BB rats (9 mo of age). Levels of serum iron and vitamin B12 did not differ between PCA-positive and PCA-negative BB rats, nor was achiorhydria found in any rat studied.
The identification of PCA (and chronic gastritis) and other autoantibodies in the BB rat suggests that these animals have an underlying autoimmune diathesis.
These findings thus provide indirect support for an autoimmune pathogenesis for IDD in the BB rat.