Local Autoantigen Expression as Essential Gatekeeper of Memory T-Cell Recruitment to Islet Grafts in Diabetic Hosts

  1. Pere Santamaria1,4
  1. 1Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre (JMDRC) and Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Pathology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3Department of Immunohematology and Blood Transfusion, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands
  4. 4Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Corresponding author: Pere Santamaria, psantama{at}


It is generally believed that inflammatory cues can attract noncognate, “bystander” T-cell specificities to sites of inflammation. We have shown that recruitment of naive and in vitro activated autoreactive CD8+ T cells into endogenous islets requires local autoantigen expression. Here, we demonstrate that absence of an autoantigen in syngeneic extrapancreatic islet grafts in diabetic hosts renders the grafts “invisible” to cognate memory (and naive) T cells. We monitored the recruitment of islet-specific glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit-related protein (IGRP)206–214-reactive CD8+ T cells into IGRP206–214-competent and IGRP206–214-deficient islet grafts in diabetic wild-type or IGRP206–214−/− nonobese diabetic hosts (harboring either naive and memory T cells or only naive IGRP206–214-specific T-cells, respectively). All four host–donor combinations had development of recurrent diabetes within 2 weeks. Wild-type hosts recruited IGRP206–214-specific T cells into IGRP206–214+/+ but not IGRP206–214−/− grafts. In IGRP206–214−/− hosts, there was no recruitment of IGRP206–214-specific T cells, regardless of donor type. Graft-derived IGRP206–214 activated naive IGRP206–214-specific T cells, but graft destruction invariably predated their recruitment. These results indicate that recurrent diabetes is exclusively driven by autoreactive T cells primed during the primary autoimmune response, and demonstrate that local antigen expression is a sine qua non requirement for accumulation of memory T cells into islet grafts. These findings underscore the importance of tackling autoreactive T-cell memory after β-cell replacement therapy.


  • Received May 8, 2012.
  • Accepted September 2, 2012.

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