Noncontiguous T cell epitopes in autoimmune diabetes: From mice to men and back again

Nitin Amdare, Anthony W. Purcell, Teresa P. DiLorenzo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a T cell–mediated autoimmune disease that affects the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreatic islets. The nonobese diabetic mouse is a widely studied spontaneous model of the disease that has contributed greatly to our understanding of T1D pathogenesis. This is especially true in the case of antigen discovery. Upon review of existing knowledge concerning the antigens and peptide epitopes that are recognized by T cells in this model, good concordance is observed between mouse and human antigens. A fascinating recent illustration of the contribution of the nonobese diabetic mouse in the area of epitope identification is the discovery of noncontiguous CD4+ T cell epitopes. This novel epitope class is characterized by the linkage of an insulin-derived peptide to, most commonly, a fragment of a natural cleavage product of another beta cell secretory granule constituent. These so-called hybrid insulin peptides are also recognized by T cells in patients with T1D, although the precise mechanism for their generation has yet to be defined and is the subject of active investigation. Although evidence from the tumor immunology arena documented the existence of noncontiguous CD8+ T cell epitopes, generated by proteasome-mediated peptide splicing involving transpeptidation, such CD8+ T cell epitopes were thought to be a rare immunological curiosity. However, recent advances in bioinformatics and mass spectrometry have challenged this view. These developments, coupled with the discovery of hybrid insulin peptides, have spurred a search for noncontiguous CD8+ T cell epitopes in T1D, an exciting frontier area still in its infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100827
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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