CD4+CD25+ T-Cells Control Autoimmunity in the Absence of B-Cells

  1. Eliana Mariño,
  2. Jeanette Villanueva,
  3. Stacey Walters,
  4. David Liuwantara,
  5. Fabienne Mackay and
  6. Shane T. Grey
  1. From the Immunology and Inflammation Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia.
  1. Corresponding author: Shane T. Grey, s.grey{at}


OBJECTIVE Tumor necrosis factor ligand family members B-cell–activating factor (BAFF) and a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) can exert powerful effects on B-cell activation and development, type 1 T-helper cell (Th1) immune responses, and autoimmunity. We examined the effect of blocking BAFF and APRIL on the development of autoimmune diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Female NOD mice were administered B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-Fc from 9 to 15 weeks of age. Diabetes incidence, islet pathology, and T- and B-cell populations were examined.

RESULTS BCMA-Fc treatment reduced the severity of insulitis and prevented diabetes development in NOD mice. BCMA-Fc–treated mice showed reduced follicular, marginal-zone, and T2MZ B-cells. B-cell reduction was accompanied by decreased frequencies of pathogenic CD4+CD40+ T-cells and reduced Th1 cytokines IL-7, IL-15, and IL-17. Thus, T-cell activation was blunted with reduced B-cells. However, BCMA-Fc–treated mice still harbored detectable diabetogenic T-cells, suggesting that regulatory mechanisms contributed to diabetes prevention. Indeed, BCMA-Fc–treated mice accumulated increased CD4+CD25+ regulatory T-cells (Tregs) with age. CD4+CD25+ cells were essential for maintaining euglycemia because their depletion abrogated BCMA-Fc–mediated protection. BCMA-Fc did not directly affect Treg homeostasis given that CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-cells did not express TACI or BR3 receptors and that CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-cell frequencies were equivalent in wild-type, BAFF−/−, TACI−/−, BCMA−/−, and BR3−/− mice. Rather, B-cell depletion resulted in CD4+CD25+ T-cell–mediated protection from diabetes because anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody treatment precipitated diabetes in both diabetes-resistant NOD.μMT−/− and BCMA-Fc–treated mice.

CONCLUSIONS BAFF/APRIL blockade prevents diabetes. BCMA-Fc reduces B-cells, subsequently blunting autoimmune activity and allowing endogenous regulatory mechanisms to preserve a prehyperglycemic state.


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  • See accompanying commentary, p. 1479.

    • Received October 31, 2008.
    • Accepted March 16, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 58 no. 7 1568-1577
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