Jejuna of patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) show signs of immune activation


E. Savilahti Hospital for Children and Adolescents, University of Helsinki POB 281, Stenbäckinkatu 11, FIN-00290 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:


The roles of enteric viruses and food antigens as possible triggers in human insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and the evidence that mucosal-associated homing receptors are important in both human and experimental diabetes prompted us to undertake an immunohistochemical study of intestinal specimens from patients with IDDM. We studied jejunal morphology and immunohistochemistry in 26 patients with IDDM, 13 of whom had the HLA-DQB1*0201 gene and therefore a higher risk of coeliac disease. The findings were compared with those in specimens from age-matched controls. Villous structure and the density of the intraepithelial lymphocytes were normal in every biopsy specimen. The extent of positivity with anti-DR and -DP antibodies in the villous epithelium was significantly greater in the specimens from patients than in those from controls (P = 0.0002 in both comparisons). The crypts were also more positive: for DR P = 0.0001, and for DP P = 0.002. The densities of T cells, CD4+, CD8+, and T cell receptor α/β+ and γ/δ+ cells in the epithelium and lamina propria were similar in patients and controls, but the patients had significantly more α47 integrin+ cells in the lamina propria (P = 0.006). No difference was seen between HLA-DQB1*0201-positive and -negative patients. These findings reflect a stage of inflammation in the structurally normal intestines of patients with IDDM and suggest secretion of inflammatory Th1-type cytokines in the intestine.