Use of monoclonal antibodies directed against rat macrophages and serial pancreatic biopsy in the prediabetic period have enabled us to document the involvement of macrophages in the pancreatic events leading to onset of diabetes in the spontaneously diabetic BB/E rat. A few weeks before onset of disease, there is marked recruitment and accumulation of ED1+ macrophages at periductal and perivascular locations adjacent to noninfiltrated islets. These recruited cells, distinct from the resident ED2+ tissue macrophages, then infiltrate the islets. Infiltration of the pancreas by ED1 + macrophages is therefore a very early event in the prediabetic period and suggests a possible role for macrophages in the pathogenesis of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in this animal model.

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