Insulin-specific CD4+T cells are required for type 1 diabetes. How these cells are regulated and how tolerance breaks down are poorly understood because of a lack of reagents. Therefore, we used an enrichment method and tetramer reagents to track insulin-specific CD4+T cells in diabetes-susceptible NODand resistant B6 mice expressing I-Ag7. Insulin-specific cells were detected in both strains, but they only became activated, produced IFN-γ, and infiltrated the pancreas in NOD mice. Unexpectedly, the majority of Ag-experienced cells in NOD mice displayed an anergic phenotype, but this population decreased with age as tolerance was lost. B6 mice expressing I-Ag7were protected because insulin-specific cells did not become effector or anergic T cells but remained naive. These data suggest that NOD mice promote tolerance through anergy induction, but a small proportion of autoreactive T cells escape anergy to provoke type 1 diabetes.