Soluble bovine or ovine insulin given intravenously to female NOD mice shortly after weaning had a downregulating effect on several autoimmune parameters associated with insulin-dependent diabetes. The titer of spontaneous anti-insulin antibodies was reduced, insulitis was delayed and less severe, and only 25% of treated mice were diabetic at 30 weeks compared with 70% of untreated mice. An interesting paradox occurred in that bovine insulin, although poorly immunogenic in NOD mice and ineffective as a tolerogen for complete Freund's adjuvant–induced cellular and humoral responses to ovine insulin, was nearly as effective as immunogenic ovine insulin in protecting against diabetes and better than ovine insulin at downregulating spontaneous autoantibodies to insulin. Bovine and ovine insulins differ by only one amino acid on the A-chain loop, but whereas modulation of the induced response to ovine insulin appeared to be sheep-specific, modulation of the induced and spontaneous autoimmunity was achieved almost equally well by bovine or ovine insulin. We suggest therefore that modulation of the induced and spontaneous responses are dependent on different T-cell epitopes and that modulation of spontaneous autoimmunity appears to be governed by an epitope common to both insulins.

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