Apart from islet cell antibodies (ICAs), antibodies to glutamate decarboxylase (GAD), insulin autoantibodies (IAAs), and a novel islet antigen (37k antigen) are potential markers for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). GAD is also an antigen in stiff-man syndrome (SMS), and both SMS and IDDM are associated with ICAs and autoimmunity to other endocrine organs. We investigated possible links between antibody responses to islet antigens with autoimmunity to other endocrine organs and determined which specific antibodies can identify individuals who progress to IDDM. Antibodies to GAD were detected in ≥90% of both diabetic and nondiabetic patients with ICAs and other endocrine autoimmunity, in 59% of ICA-positive IDDM patients without endocrine autoimmunity, in all patients with SMS, but in only 1–3% of healthy (nondiabetic) and autoimmune disease control subjects. GAD antibody levels were increased in ICA-positive IDDM patients with polyendocrine autoimmunity compared with those without. In contrast, antibodies to 37k antigen were only detected in patients who developed acute-onset IDDM. IAAs were also associated with IDDM. Thus, certain factors enhance antibody responses to GAD in polyendocrine autoimmunity, but this does not necessarily lead to development of IDDM or SMS. Antibodies to 37k antigen are strongly associated with acute-onset IDDM and are useful serological markers for disease.

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