The immune mechanisms directly responsible for β-cell destruction in insulin-dependent diabetes are undefined. We studied the role of MHC class I–restricted T lymphocytes in the development of diabetes in cyclophosphamide (CY)-treated male and untreated female NOD mice (H-2Kd,Db). After administration of CY to 10-wk-old male NOD/Shi/Kbe mice, 37 of 64 (58%) phosphate-buffered saline–injected control mice and 13 of 22 (59%) anti-Kb and 12 of 27 (44%) anti-Db monoclonal antibody (MoAb)-injected mice became diabetic by 14 wk of age, whereas only 3 of 38 (8%) anti-Kd and 2 of 13 (15%) anti-Lyt-2 MoAb-injected mice did. In untreated female NOD/Shi/Kbe mice, 30 of 46 (65%) mice developed spontaneous diabetes by 30 wk of age, whereas none of 9 anti-Kd MoAb-injected mice became diabetic. Immunohistochemical studies showed that islet-infiltrating cells in CY-treated control mice were composed mainly of both L3T4+ and Lyt-2+ T lymphocytes, whereas many L3T4+ and very few Lyt-2+ lymphocytes infiltrated within the islets in anti-Kd MoAb-injected mice. Administration of anti-Lyt-2 MoAb induced the absence of Lyt-2+ T lymphocytes in the islet and spleen. However, anti-Kd MoAb did not change the number of spleen cells or the T-lymphocyte subset and response to concanavalin A. These results suggest that MHC class I Kd-restricted Lyt-2+ T lymphocytes play an important role as direct effector cells in destruction of β-cells in NOD/Shi/Kbe mice.

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