After bone marrow transplantation, complete nonobese diabetic (NOD) into (NOD x C57Bl/10)F1 chimeras developed insulitis in 100% (7/7) and diabetes in 58% (7/12) of cases. In contrast, when mixed chimerism was induced, a near complete protection against insulitis (3/23, p < 0.0001 vs complete chimeras) and diabetes (0/25, p < 0.001 vs complete chimeras) was achieved even in chimeras with as few as 5% F1 cells. In cotransfer experiments, splenocytes from mixed chimeras failed to prevent diabetes, thus overruling a role for suppressor cells in protection. Whereas splenocytes from complete chimeras transferred diabetes into young irradiated NOD mice in all cases, NOD splenocytes from mixed chimeras only rarely transferred diabetes (3/16, p < 0.01 vs complete chimeras), suggesting that the latter cells had developed tolerance toward beta cells. To achieve this tolerance, the presence of an F1 thymus was not needed. Indeed, whereas splenocytes isolated from complete chimeras were diabetogenic when transferred into neonatally thymectomized irradiated NOD recipients (3/4), they failed to induce diabetes when transferred into neonatally thymectomized irradiated F1 recipients in case again a state of mixed chimerism was induced (0/4, p < 0.001 vs NOD recipients). Finally, a role for non-MHC Ags was demonstrated by experiments in F1 mice crossed between NOD and C57Bl/6, a strain congenic to C57Bl/10. Here protection against disease was only seen in the presence of high levels of F1 cells (>25%). In conclusion, mixed bone marrow chimerism can induce self-tolerance in autoimmunity prone NOD immune cells. This can be achieved extrathymically but may depend on non-MHC Ags and the level of chimerism.

This content is only available via PDF.