Islet cell antigen p69 (ICA69) is a target autoantigen in IDDM. Studies of T-cells from newly diabetic children suggested possible antigenic mimicry between human ICA69 (in particular the Tep69 T-cell epitope, aa 36-47) and the ABBOS region in bovine serum albumin (BSA; aa 152-169), one of several cow's milk proteins that evoke abnormal immunity in diabetes-prone hosts. We recently found the sequence of Tep69 regions to be identical in the four alternatively spliced human and rodent ICA69 isoforms. Immunization of nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice with BSA or ICA69 generates fully cross-reactive T-cell responses to both Tep69 and ABBOS as the immunodominant, naturally generated, and presented T-cell mimicry epitopes. Such responses are absent or weak in healthy strains of mice. NOD mouse recipients of adoptive spleen cell grafts from diabetic donors spontaneously generate easily detectable pools of T-cells specific for ICA69/BSA, as well as the unrelated GAD65. NOD mice injected neonatally with ABBOS or Tep69 show cross-tolerance, but ABBOS-induced tolerance is transient. Neonatal injection of Tep69 reduces disease incidence (23 vs. 68% IDDM, P < 0.02), while neonatal injection of ABBOS has little effect. In contrast, systemic immunization of young NOD females with ABBOS (but not Tep69) reduces the diabetes incidence and delays disease expression, with protected mice generating ABBOS-specific T-cell repertoires unable to recognize the Tep69 mimicry antigen. Our observations demonstrate a loss of self-tolerance to ICA69 in NOD mice, and they establish antigenic mimicry between the two T-cell epitopes in ICA69 and BSA. Further studies are necessary to understand the molecular basis of this mimicry and how either T-cell peptide can modify the disease course.

This content is only available via PDF.