Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is characterized by pancreatic islet infiltration by autoreactive immune cells and a near-total loss of β-cells 1. Restoration of insulin-producing β-cells coupled with immunomodulation to suppress the autoimmune attack has emerged as a potential approach to counter T1D 2-4. Here we report that enhancing β-cell mass early in life, in two models of female NOD mice, results in immunomodulation of T-cells, reduced islet infiltration and lower β-cell apoptosis, that together protect them from developing T1D. The animals displayed altered β-cell antigens, and islet transplantation studies showed prolonged graft survival in the NOD-LIRKO model. Adoptive transfer of splenocytes from the NOD-LIRKOs prevented development of diabetes in pre-diabetic NOD mice. A significant increase in the splenic CD4 +CD25 +FoxP3 + regulatory T-cell (Treg) population was observed to underlie the protected phenotype since Treg depletion rendered NOD-LIRKO mice diabetic. The increase in Tregs coupled with activation of TGF-β/SMAD3 signaling pathway in pathogenic T-cells favored reduced ability to kill β-cells. These data support a previously unidentified observation that initiating β-cell proliferation, alone, prior to islet infiltration by immune cells alters the identity of β-cells, decreases pathologic self-reactivity of effector cells and increases Tregs to prevent progression of T1D.
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© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.