Antibodies to an islet protein of 64,000 Mr(64K antibodies) were measured in 15 diabetic children who were followed prospectively for up to 3 yr after onset of type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Of the 15 children, 12 were positive for 64K antibodies at diagnosis. Those patients who were negative for these antibodies at onset remained negative throughout the study. Modest increases in 64K antibodies were observed in 7 patients within 1 mo of diabetes onset, concomitant with an increase in C-peptide concentrations. All antibody-positive patients were still positive at the end of the study, with no significant decrease in antibody levels relative to those at diagnosis, whereas C-peptide concentrations decreased between 3 and 24 mo after onset. Islet cell antibodies, measured by immunochemical staining on sections of rat pancreas, were detected in 9 of 15 patients at onset, whereas only 3 of 11 patients were still positive after 3 yr. In an additional group of 11 patients with diabetes for 6–7 yr, when basal and stimulated C-peptide concentrations were undetectable, 4 patients were still positive for 64K antibodies. These results demonstrate that levels of 64K antibodies persist during the first 3 yr of diabetes, despite declining β-cell function and decreased immune responses to other islet antigens, but decrease during the next 3–4 yr as the remaining functional β-cells disappear.

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