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Keywords:

  • Autoimmunity;
  • Diabetes;
  • IL-17;
  • iNKT;
  • NOD

Abstract

Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are a distinct lineage of innate-like T lymphocytes and converging studies in mouse models have demonstrated the protective role of iNKT cells in the development of type 1 diabetes. Recently, a new subset of iNKT cells, producing high levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17, has been identified (iNKT17 cells). Since this cytokine has been implicated in several autoimmune diseases, we have analyzed iNKT17 cell frequency, absolute number and phenotypes in the pancreas and lymphoid organs in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. The role of iNKT17 cells in the development of diabetes was investigated using transfer experiments. NOD mice exhibit a higher frequency and absolute number of iNKT17 cells in the lymphoid organs as compared with C57BL/6 mice. iNKT17 cells infiltrate the pancreas of NOD mice where they express IL-17 mRNA. Contrary to the protective role of CD4+ iNKT cells, the CD4 iNKT cell population, which contains iNKT17 cells, enhances the incidence of diabetes. Treatment with a blocking anti-IL-17 antibody prevents the exacerbation of the disease. This study reveals that different iNKT cell subsets play distinct roles in the regulation of type 1 diabetes and iNKT17 cells, which are abundant in NOD mice, exacerbate diabetes development.