Costimulator B7-1 confers antigen-presenting-cell function to parenchymal tissue and in conjunction with tumor necrosis factor alpha leads to autoimmunity in transgenic mice.
Tolerance to peripheral antigens is thought to result from the inability of parenchymal tissue to stimulate T cells--an inability that is believed to relate to the lack of expression of the costimulatory signal(s) required for T-cell activation. To test this model, we generated transgenic mice expressing costimulatory molecule B7-1 on the B cells of the pancreas. We find that islets from these transgenic mice are immunogenic for naive T cells in vitro and in vivo. Nonetheless, mice expressing the costimulator B7-1 specifically on beta cells do not develop diabetes, suggesting that expression of the B7-1 costimulator is not sufficient to abrogate the tolerance to peripheral antigens. We have reported that tumor necrosis factor alpha subunit (TNF-alpha) expressed by beta cells leads to a local inflammation but no islet destruction. Strikingly, however, the combination of a local inflammation due to the expression of the cytokine TNF-alpha and the expression of B7-1 results in tissue destruction and diabetes.