Accumulating evidence suggests that CD4+ T helper type 1 (Th1) cells play a major role in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model. Interleukin (IL)-12 is a potent immunoregulatory molecule that is a key determinant of T-cell differentiation into Th1 cells, and has been implicated in the development of IDDM. To investigate the role of IL-12 that is locally produced by islet-infiltrating cells in the development of IDDM, we generated transgenic NOD mice in which the IL-12 p40 homodimer, a natural antagonist of IL-12, was produced exclusively in islets without affecting the levels of IL-12 p40 in the systemic circulation. We found that the incidence of diabetes was significantly reduced in these transgenic mice. These results clearly demonstrate that IL-12 locally produced by islet-infiltrating cells plays a critical role in the development of IDDM.
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