Our lab recently established that Hybrid Insulin Peptides (HIPs) are antigenic ligands for diabetogenic T cell clones in the NOD mouse model of autoimmune diabetes. Importantly, we have found that the phenotype of HIP-reactive T cells present in the peripheral blood of NOD mice is indicative of ongoing autoimmunity in the pancreas. In the human setting, we demonstrated that T cells reactive to HIPs are present in the residual islets of type 1 diabetic (T1D) organ donors and more recently, in PBMC from T1D patients. Using an IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay to test T cell reactivity in the peripheral blood of T1D patients or control subjects to a panel of 16 HIPs, we demonstrated that 70% of the responding patients showed reactivity to multiple HIPs. To determine whether the presence of HIP-reactive T cells might serve as a biomarker of disease activity in humans, we are following longitudinally a cohort of subjects positive for multiple islet autoantibodies (Ab+), individuals that are at high risk for developing T1D. Using IFN-gamma ELISPOT and CFSE dilution assays, our data indicate that HIP-reactive T cells with an inflammatory phenotype can be detected before disease onset. In one Ab+ individual that showed HIP reactivity, we used single-cell RNA sequencing to study the phenotype and TCR usage of HIP-responding T cells in 3 longitudinal samples collected 6 months apart. We observed that T cells with a regulatory phenotype (FoxP3+, CTLA-4+, LAG3+) can be observed when a proliferative response - but not inflammatory - is detected. In this ongoing study, we are reporting for the first time that HIP-reactive T cells can be observed in the peripheral blood of subjects at risk for T1D, and our data may indicate that the balance of inflammatory vs. regulatory signals of HIP-reactive T cells could be potential indicators of disease activity.
R.L. Baker: None. T. Delong: None. M. Rewers: None. P. Gottlieb: Advisory Panel; Self; Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC., Tolerion, Inc., Viacyte, Inc. Research Support; Self; Caladrius Biosciences, Inc., Immune Tolerance Network, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., JDRF, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Mercia/Nova Laboratories, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Novo Nordisk Inc. Stock/Shareholder; Self; IM Therapeutics. K.M. Haskins: None.
American Diabetes Association (1-15-ACE-14 to T.D.); JDRF (2-SRA-2017-511-S-B); National Institutes of Health (R21AI133059-01A1)