Cellular immune responses to β casein: Elevated in but not specific for individuals with Type I diabetes mellitus

T. M. Ellis, E. Ottendorfer, E. Jodoin, P. J. Salisbury, J. X. She, D. A. Schatz, M. A. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Elevated cellular immune responses against the cows' milk protein β casein have been reported in individuals with Type I diabetes mellitus, a finding supportive of the concept that cows' milk consumption may be causative for the disease. We analysed cellular immune reactivities against β casein in newly-diagnosed Type I diabetic patients, their immediate autoantibody negative relatives, and unrelated healthy individuals in order to further elucidate the role of anti-β casein immunity in the pathogenesis of Type I diabetes mellitus. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stimulated in vitro with various concentrations of three different β casein preparations, control antigens (tetanus toxoid, mumps extract) and a mitogen (phytohemagglutinin). The frequency and/or mean simulation index of cellular proliferation against two of the β casein preparations at high antigen concentrations (i.e. 10 or 50 μg/ml) were significantly higher in newly- diagnosed Type I diabetic subjects compared with autoantibody negative healthy control subjects. However, reactivities against β casein in the Type I diabetic probands and their autoantibody negative relatives, individuals with a very low-rate of disease development, were almost identical. Cellular immune reactivities to other antigens were similar between the subject groups. In addition to indicating the need for appropriately matched subject populations (e.g. human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matched relatives) when analysing cellular immune responses, these findings support our previous contention that individuals genetically prone to autoimmunity may be deficient in forming tolerance to dietary antigens. However, the significance of anti-β casein immunity as a specific causative factor in the pathogenesis of Type I diabetes mellitus remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-735
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmunity
  • Diet
  • Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
  • T-lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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