The adoptive transfer of type I diabetes in nonobese diabetic mice requires the contribution of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. To further elucidate the cellular pathway(s) of beta-cell destruction and the responsibility of each subset, high doses of committed T cells from diabetic mice purified to single subsets, were injected into syngeneic nonobese diabetic neonates. The recipients of single or mixed subsets were followed for clinical manifestations of diabetes and examined at 30 days of age for in situ lesions. None of the animals injected with either CD4+ or CD8+ T cells became overtly diabetic during the 30 days of observation whereas 8 of 23 mice inoculated with a mixture of the two subsets developed glycosuria and hyperglycemia. However, insulitis was found in 6 of the 13 mice injected with CD4+ T cells whereas only 1 of the 9 mice injected with CD8+ T cells showed marginal infiltration of the pancreas. The lesions initiated by CD4+ T cells alone were considerably less severe than those induced by the mixture of both subsets, corroborating the fact that overt disease did not occur in the former group. Together, these results suggest a distinct function for each diabetogenic T cell subset. CD4+ T cells, which have the capacity to home to the pancreas, promote in turn the influx of CD8+ effector T cells that do not by themselves accumulate in this organ. These results illustrate a novel form of T-T cell interactions leading to organ specific autoimmune lesions.

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