Pancreatic islets from DBA/2 mice infected with the D variant of encephalomyocarditis (EMC-D) virus revealed lymphocytic infiltration with moderate to severe destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Our previous studies showed that the major population of infiltrating cells at the early stages of infection is macrophages. The inactivation of macrophages prior to viral infection resulted in the prevention of diabetes, whereas activation of macrophages prior to viral infection resulted in the enhancement of beta-cell destruction. This investigation was initiated to determine whether macrophage-produced soluble mediators play a role in the destruction of pancreatic beta cells in mice infected with a low dose of EMC-D virus. When we examined the expression of the soluble mediators interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in the pancreatic islets, we found that these mediators were clearly expressed at an early stage of insulitis and that this expression was evident until the development of diabetes. We confirmed the expression of these mediators by in situ hybridization with digoxigenin-labelled RNA probes or immunohistochemistry in the pancreatic islets. Mice treated with antibody against IL-1beta or TNF-alpha or with the iNOS inhibitor aminoguanidine exhibited a significant decrease in the incidence of diabetes. Mice treated with a combination of anti-IL-1beta antibody, anti-TNF-alpha antibody, and aminoguanidine exhibited a greater decrease in the incidence of disease than did mice treated with one of the antibodies or aminoguanidine. On the basis of these observations, we conclude that macrophage-produced soluble mediators play an important role in the destruction of pancreatic beta cells, resulting in the development of diabetes in mice infected with a low dose of EMC-D virus.
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