Lymphocyte antibodies have been described in autoimmune disorders, including insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). We have developed a quantitative method to measure autoantibodies directed against T-lymphocytes, based on two-color fluorescence labeling of Wistar mononuclear cells and analysis of fluorescence by flow cytometry. The lymphocyte antibody levels were determined retrospectively in the serum of 73 BB and 18 Wistar rats. We demonstrated the binding of the lymphocyte autoantibodies of both CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. Lymphocyte antibodies were present in 90% of the BB rats at diabetes onset, compared with 11% of the Wistar rats. At 75 days of age, 83% of the BB rats, which later became diabetic, were positive for the lymphocyte antibodies, compared with 15% of their litter mates who maintained a normal glucose tolerance. In all cases, the antibodies were of the immunoglobulin M isotype. We conclude that lymphocyte antibodies are present before diabetes onset and, using this method, that their presence can predict the development of diabetes with a sensitivity of 83% and a specificity of 85% in BB rats.

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