The Bio-Breeding/Worcester (BB/W) rat develops spontaneous autoimmune diabetes similar to human insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Transfusions of whole blood from the nondiabetic W-line of BB/W rats prevent the syndrome in diabetes-prone recipients. We report three experiments designed to determine which blood component is protective. In all experiments, diabetes-prone BB/W rats 23 to 35 d of age were given four or six weekly intravenous injections. In the first experiment, animals received either saline or transfusions of erythrocytes, white blood cells, or plasma from W-line donors. Diabetes occurred in 7/22 (32%) erythrocyte, 2/27 (7%) white cell, 14/24 (58%) plasma, and 15/27 (56%) saline recipients (P less than 0.001). At 120 d of age, peripheral blood was obtained from nondiabetic rats. Fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis of OX 19 tagged leucocytes revealed 35% T lymphocytes in white cell recipients (n = 13), compared with 9% in saline recipients (n = 7; P less than 0.001). Responsiveness to concanavalin A was also increased in the white cell group, whereas the frequency of both insulitis and thyroiditis was decreased. In the second experiment, 1/19 (5%) rats transfused with W-line spleen cells developed diabetes, as contrasted with 12/18 (67%) recipients of diabetes-prone spleen cells and 19/31 (61%) noninjected controls (P less than 0.001). In the third experiment, diabetes-prone rats received either W-line blood treated with a cytotoxic anti-T lymphocyte antibody plus complement, untreated blood, or saline. Diabetes occurred in 8/20 (40%), 1/20 (5%), and 13/19 (68%) rats in each group, respectively (P less than 0.001). We conclude that transfusions of W-line T lymphocytes prevent diabetes in the BB/W rat.


A A Rossini, D Faustman, B A Woda, A A Like, I Szymanski, J P Mordes


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