, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 159-165

Islet cell surface and lymphocyte antibodies often precede the spontaneous diabetes in the BB rat

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Summary

The diabetic syndrome of the BB rat shows many homologies with that of human insulin-dependent diabetes and evidence that the onset of the disease is associated with the presence of autoantibodies, including islet cell surface antibodies. In this study, sera were sampled serially from weaning to 157 days of age from 26 BB rats in two low-incidence litters, and 22 rats of three high-incidence litters. Clinical and metabolic variables were monitored concurrently with blood lymphocyte counts. Islet morphology was correlated at sacrifice. In the high-incidence litters, eight rats developed insulin-dependent diabetes, five impaired glucose tolerance, and the remaining nine all showed insulitis. In the low-incidence litters, only one animal showed impaired glucose tolerance and another insulitis. In the high-incidence litters 16 rats (73%) had islet cell surface antibodies compared with 4 out of 26 (15%) low-incidence controls (p<0.002). Antibodies reactive with Wistar rat spleen lymphocytes were present in all high-incidence rats compared with 19% (5 out of 26) among the control litters (p<0.002). Time courses of islet cell surface and lymphocyte antibody appearance and their peak values varied, but already at weaning the levels of both antibodies were increased among the high-incidence litter rats (p< 0.001). Islet cell surface and/or lymphocyte antibodies were therefore present in the majority of animals at an age where neither morphological nor metabolic evidence of the diabetic syndrome were yet detected. All rats that showed any form of the syndrome were lymphopenic. These findings suggest that BB rats have an abnormal immune response which predisposes to later development of insulin-dependent diabetes, often preceded by the presence of islet cell surface and/or lymphocyte antibodies.