Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus induced by subdiabetogenic doses of streptozotocin: Obligatory role of cell-mediated autoimmune processes

S. Paik, N. Fleischer, S. Shin

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The role of thymic functions in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes was investigated in athymic nude (nu/nu) mice and euthymic heterozygous (+/nu) littermates of BALB/c origin treated with streptozotocin. The injection of a single high dose of streptozotocin (200 mg/kg body weight) induced rapid and permanent hyperglycemia in both nu/nu and +/nu mice. In contrast, the injection of the same total dose divided into multiple 'subdiabetogenic' doses (40 mg/kg per day for 5 consecutive days) caused the development of delayed but progressive hyperglycemia only in the thymus-competent +/nu mice. Female mice of either genotype were significantly less susceptible to streptozotocin at both doses. Restoration of thymic immunity in nu/nu mice by thymus grafts also restored the susceptibility to the hyperglycemic effects of multiple low doses of streptozotocin. Moreover, splenic lymphocytes from +/nu mice previously made diabetic with the multiple low-dose injections of streptozotocin induced transient glucose intolerance in nu/nu mice. The ability of the diabetic spleen cells to transfer the diabetic state was abolished when the splenic lymphocytes were depleted of the T cells but not when they were depleted of B cells. These results provide direct proof that thymus-dependent functions play an obligatory etiologic role in the development of diabetes in mice treated with repeated subdiabetogenic doses of streptozotocin. These observations also add to the growing evidence that autoimmune amplification mechanisms may be critically involved in the etiology of juvenile-onset diabetes mellitus in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6129-6133
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10 II
StatePublished - Jan 1 1980


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