Macrophage infiltration precedes and is a prerequisite for lymphocytic insulitis in pancreatic islets of pre-diabetic BB rats

H. Hanenberg, V. Kolb-Bachofen, G. Kantwerk-Funke, H. Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

170 Scopus citations


We have analysed whether infiltration of macrophages and lymphocyte subtypes into pancreatic islets of diabetes prone BB rats occurs at random or whether insulitis requires a specific sequence of events. Serial sections from more than 700 islets of diabetes prone BB rats (70-150 days of age) were analysed for infiltrating immunocytes and expression of major histocompatibility complex antigens by 4-11 different monoclonal antibodies. In parallel, electron microscopy was performed in a fraction of islets. Part of the animals had been treated with macrophage toxic silica particles. A specific non-random sequence of events was identified and 4 stages of islet inflammation were recognised. Stages 1 a and 1 b are defined by macrophage (ED1+, W3/25+. Ox3/6/17+, ED2-) infiltration and concomitant enhanced major histocompatibility complex class I antigen expression initially at one pole or at the periphery of islets. T-, NK- and B-lymphocytes are absent (<1 cell per mean islet section). In stage 2, more macrophages are infiltrating and concomitantly Ox19+-T-lymphocytes and Ox8+-granular (NK-) lymphocytes are observed. In stage 3, additional massive infiltration of Ox12+-B-lymphocytes is noted. Silica treatment of BB rats largely prevented macrophage infiltration. Concomitantly islets were free of lymphocytes. Thus, macrophage infiltration clearly precedes T- and NK-lymphocyte and later B-lymphocyte infiltration. Lymphocytes do not infiltrate islets in the absence of prior macrophage invasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1989


  • BB rats
  • T-lymphocytes silica
  • electron microscopy
  • insulitis
  • macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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