Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is marked by circulating antibodies to a 64,000-Mr islet cell antigen identified as glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD). We describe a radioimmunoprecipitation assay with GAD isolated from pig brain. The sera tested were from 80 patients with IDDM including 26 with disease of recent onset and 54 with disease of longer duration (3–42 yr), 20 with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), and 55 nondiabetic subjects. Conventional assays for islet cell cytoplasmic antibodies were performed concurrently. The level of antibody in serum was expressed in units based on percentage reactivity of a standard reference serum. The frequency of antibody to GAD in IDDM was 69% in short-duration cases and 59% in long-duration cases. The latter was substantially higher than the frequency of islet cell cytoplasmic antibody. Antibodies to GAD were elevated (means ± 3 SD) in 5% NIDDM cases and in none of the nondiabetic subjects. A simple laboratory test with a defined autoantigen has substantial implications for population screening and early diagnosis of IDDM and for better understanding of its pathogenesis.

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