Lymphocytes bearing the T-lymphocyte differentiation antigen RT6 play an important immunoregulatory role in the development of autoimmune diabetes in BB rats. Immunofluorescence studies suggest that diabetesprone (DP)- but not diabetes-resistant (DR)-BB rat lymphocytes fail to express RT6 antigen during ontogeny. Two alloantigenic forms of the molecule exist, i.e., RT6.1 and RT6.2; both are linked to cell membranes by a phosphatidylinositol (PI) linkage. In these studies, Pl-phospholipase C (PLC) treatment of lymphocytes from BB and normal rats followed by immunoabsorption and sodium dodecyl sulfatepolyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis of released proteins with anti-RT6 allotype-specific monoclonal antibodies was performed. RT6.1 in several nondiabetic rat strains was found to consist of a family of nonglycosylated and variably glycosylated molecules: an N-Glycanase–resistant 24,000- to 26,000- Mr peptide and four N-Glycanase–sensitive peptides of 29,000, 31,000, 33,000, and 34,000 Mr In contrast, RT6.2 was found to be a 24,000- to 26,000-Mr nonglycosylated polypeptide. The electrophoretic pattern of RT6.1 was observed to be the same when the antigen was extracted from W3/25+ (CD4+) versus W3/25- T lymphocytes or from resting versus mitogen-activated cells. A pattern of bands characteristic of the RT6.1 antigen found in normal rat strains was detected after PLC treatment or detergent solubilization of lymphocytes obtained from DR rats. In contrast, no evidence of either RT6 species was found after PLC or detergent treatment of comparable numbers of T lymphocytes from DP-BB rats. Interestingly, T lymphocytes from Wistar-Furth (RT6.2+) × DP (RT6) F1 crosses were observed to coexpress both RT6.2 and RT6.1 molecules, with the electrophoretic pattern of RT6.1 being similar to that obtained in DR and other rat strains. This study provides biochemical evidence that DP rats may have an intact RT6a structural gene.

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