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Increased risk for T cell autoreactivity to ß-cell antigens in the mice expressing the Avy obesity-associated gene.


There has been considerable debate as to whether obesity can act as an accelerator of type 1 diabetes (T1D). We assessed this possibility using transgenic mice (MIP-TF mice) whose ß-cells express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Infecting these mice with EGFP-expressing murine herpes virus-68 (MHV68-EGFP) caused occasional transient elevation in their blood glucose, peri-insulitis, and Th1 responses to EGFP which did not spread to other ß-cell antigens. We hypothesized that obesity-related systemic inflammation and ß-cell stress could exacerbate the MHV68-EGFP-induced ß-cell autoreactivity. We crossed MIP-TF mice with Avy mice which develop obesity and provide models of metabolic disease alongside early stage T2D. Unlike their MIP-TF littermates, MHV68-EGFP-infected Avy/MIP-TF mice developed moderate intra-insulitis and transient hyperglycemia. MHV68-EGFP infection induced a more pronounced intra-insulitis in older, more obese, Avy/MIP-TF mice. Moreover, in MHV68-EGFP-infected Avy/MIP-TF mice, Th1 reactivity spread from EGFP to other ß-cell antigens. Thus, the spreading of autoreactivity among ß-cell antigens corresponded with the transition from peri-insulitis to intra-insulitis and occurred in obese Avy/MIP-TF mice but not lean MIP-TF mice. These observations are consistent with the notion that obesity-associated systemic inflammation and ß-cell stress lowers the threshold necessary for T cell autoreactivity to spread from EGFP to other ß-cell autoantigens.

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