The NOD mouse is a model of human IDDM, which is characterized by a cell-mediated autoimmune process resulting in spontaneous diabetes. Alpha-interferon (IFN-alpha) is thought to play a pathogenic role in this autoimmune process. We report that recombinant alpha-interferon (rIFN-alpha) administration decreases the development of spontaneous diabetes and the passive transfer of diabetes in NOD mice. Spontaneous diabetes was inhibited by IFN-alpha in a dose-dependent fashion. A dose of as little as 20 x 10(3) U inhibited diabetes development, while a dose of 100 x 10(3) U potently prevented diabetes (14% incidence vs. 70% incidence in control mice). Even at the termination of the experiment, nondiabetic mice administered rIFN-alpha maintained normal glucose tolerance. Islet inflammation was 65% lower in the pancreases of rIFN-alpha mice. rIFN-alpha administration decreased anti-islet effector cell bioactivity of spleen cells without inducing generalized immunosuppression. Passive transfer experiments demonstrated that the decreased anti-islet effector cell activity was not a direct action of rIFN-alpha on these cells. In conclusion, rIFN-alpha potently and paradoxically prevents diabetes by indirectly decreasing anti-islet effector cell activity and in turn the development of insulitis without inducing generalized immunosuppression. This work, which goes against our current understanding of the role of rIFN-alpha in autoimmunity, may have significant implications to further our understanding of the pathogenesis of IDDM and to further the development of novel modes to prevent the disease.

This content is only available via PDF.