Diabetes mellitus type I
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary The inappropriate expression of HLA Class II molecules by the target cells of endocrine autoimmune diseases is a recent observation that has been intensively studied in thyroid autoimmunity and type I diabetes mellitus. In vitro studies have shown that interferon-γ can induce Class II expression, either alone, as in thyrocytes, or in combination with other mediators like tumour necrosis factor or lymphotoxin, as in islet cells, pointing to possible mechanisms operating in vivo. Endocrine cells expressing Class II molecules are able to present their autoantigens to helper T cells, thus possibly inducing the autoimmune process. However, until now it is still unclear if the expression of Class II molecules by the target cells is the primary immune phenomenon, which might possibly be triggered by a latent viral infection of the endocrine cell. Alternatively, it might be a secondary response in an ongoing autoimmune process. Particularly data obtained in the diabetic pancreas favour the first possibility, but only progress in our understanding of the role of HLA antigens in immunoregulation will make it possible to interpret the phenomenon properly.
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