PD-1 pathway-mediated regulation of islet-specific CD4+ T cell subsets in autoimmune diabetes

Tijana Martinov, Justin A Spanier, Kristen E Pauken, Brian T Fife

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Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a CD4+ T cell-driven autoimmune disease resulting from the destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Clinical evidence and studies in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice suggest that insulin is a major autoantigen. With this in mind, we developed insulin B10-23:IAg7 tetramer reagents to track insulin-specific CD4+ T cells in mice and interrogated the role of Programmed death-1 (PD-1) for peripheral tolerance. PD-1 is a T cell inhibitory receptor necessary to maintain tolerance and prevent T1D in NOD mice. PD-1 pathway inhibitors are increasingly used in the clinic for treating malignancies, and while many patients benefit, some develop adverse autoimmune events, including T1D. We therefore sought to understand the role of PD-1 in maintaining islet-specific tolerance in diabetes-resistant strains. B6.g7 mice express the same MHC Class II allele as NOD mice, have predominantly naïve insulin-specific CD4+ T cells in the periphery, and remain diabetes-free even after PD-1 pathway blockade. Here, we examined the trafficking potential of insulin-specific CD4+ T cells in NOD and B6.g7 mice with or without anti-PD-L1 treatment, and found that PD-L1 blockade preferentially increased the number of CD44highCXCR3+ insulin-specific cells in NOD but not B6.g7 mice. Additionally, we investigated whether pancreatic islets in NOD and B6.g7 mice expressed CXCL10, a lymphocyte homing chemokine and ligand for CXCR3. Anti-PD-L1 treated and control NOD mice had detectable CXCL10 expression in the islets, while B6.g7 islets did not. These data suggest that islet tolerance may be in part attributed to the pancreatic environment and in the absence of pancreas inflammation, chemotactic cytokines may be missing. This, together with our previous data showing that PD-1 pathway blockade preferentially affects effector but not anergic self-specific T cells has implications for the use of checkpoint blockade in treating tumor patients. Our work suggests that determining tumor- and self-specific CD4+ T cell activation status (naïve, effector or anergic) prior to initiation of immunotherapy would likely help to stratify individuals who would benefit from this therapy versus those who might have adverse effects or incomplete tumor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalImmunoendocrinology (Houston, Tex.)
StatePublished - Sep 23 2016

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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