Interleukin (IL)-35 is a newly identified inhibitory cytokine used by T regulatory cells to control T cell–driven immune responses. However, the therapeutic potential of native, biologically active IL-35 has not been fully examined. Expression of the heterodimeric IL-35 cytokine was targeted to β-cells via the rat insulin promoter (RIP) II. Autoimmune diabetes, insulitis, and the infiltrating cellular populations were analyzed. Ectopic expression of IL-35 by pancreatic β-cells led to substantial, long-term protection against autoimmune diabetes, despite limited intraislet IL-35 secretion. Nonobese diabetic RIP-IL35 transgenic mice exhibited decreased islet infiltration with substantial reductions in the number of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, and frequency of glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit–related protein-specific CD8+ T cells. Although there were limited alterations in cytokine expression, the reduced T-cell numbers observed coincided with diminished T-cell proliferation and G1 arrest, hallmarks of IL-35 biological activity. These data present a proof of principle that IL-35 could be used as a potent inhibitor of autoimmune diabetes and implicate its potential therapeutic utility in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
- Received June 7, 2011.
- Accepted February 7, 2012.
- © 2012 by the American Diabetes Association.
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