Migration of lymphocytes to the pancreas is a prerequisite for insulitis in IDDM. Mucosal vascular addressin (MAdCAM-1), involved in the recirculation of lymphocytes to the gut, has been found in the inflamed islets in NOD mice. In humans, triggers of the gut immune system (e.g., early exposure to cow's milk proteins in infancy, exposure to enteroviral infections) have been associated with IDDM. To study the possible link between the gut immune system and IDDM, we tested the expression of the α4β7-integrin, a homing receptor for MAdCAM-1, on GAD65-reactive lymphocytes. Using immunomagnetic cell sorting, we depleted the lymphocytes with high expression of α4β7-integrin in the peripheral blood mononuclear cell population from IDDM patients and patients with autoimmune polyendocrine disease type 1 (APD-I). The depletion led to a marked decrease (mean 70%) in the cellular response against GAD65 in three of six IDDM patients and in one subject at high risk for IDDM. A decrease of 37% in the GAD response was observed after depletion in the case of one APD-I patient who also had IDDM. Cellular response to tetanus toxoid increased in the majority of patients as well as in three control subjects studied. We demonstrated that a remarkable population of islet cell antigen–reactive lymphocytes express the gut-specific homing receptor, which emphasizes the role of gut immunity in IDDM. The manipulation of the gut immune system is therefore proposed as a tool for modulation of the autoimmunity against pancreatic β-cells in IDDM.

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