In genetically susceptible strains of mice, repeated injections of a subdiabetogenic dose of streptozotocin induces the development of progressive insulin-dependent hyperglycemia. We showed previously that host T-cell functions play an obligatory etiologic role in this experimental disease by demonstrating that the athymic nude mouse is resistant to diabetes induction unless its T-cell functions are reconstituted by thymus graft (Paik et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 77:6129–33, 1980).
Here we show that lethal irradiation of euthymic (+/nu) mice of BALB/cBOM background causes selective resistance of the mice to the diabetogenic effects of the multiple low doses of streptozotocin without affecting their sensitivity to a high pharmacologic dose of the toxin. We also show that reconstitution of the irradiated mice with splenic lymphocytes causes the restoration of diabetes susceptibility. Lethally irradiated mice thus represent a useful experimental model for analyzing the host functions involved in the development of this disease. These results provide an additional support for the hypothesis that the induction of diabetes in this model system is mediated by an autoimmune amplification mechanism.