Type 1 diabetes results from the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells in genetically susceptible individuals. Growing evidence suggests that genetically determined variation in the expression of self-antigens in thymus may affect the shaping of the T-cell repertoire and susceptibility to autoimmunity. For example, both allelic variation and parent-of-origin effects influence the thymic expression of insulin (a known type 1 diabetes autoantigen), and insulin gene transcription levels in thymus inversely correlate with susceptibility in both humans and transgenic models. It is unclear why patients lose tolerance to IA-2 (insulinoma-associated tyrosine phosphatase-like protein, or islet cell antigen 512 [ICA512]), especially because IA-2 polymorphisms are not associated with type 1 diabetes. We report that alternative splicing determines differential IA-2 expression in islets compared with thymus and spleen. Islets express full-length mRNA and two alternatively spliced transcripts, whereas thymus and spleen exclusively express an alternatively spliced transcript lacking exon 13. This encodes for the transmembrane (TM) and juxta-membrane (JM) domains that comprise several type 1 diabetes target epitopes, supporting the concept that tolerance to IA-2 epitopes not expressed in lymphoid organs may not be achieved. We propose differential splicing as a regulatory mechanism of gene expression playing a permissive role in the development of autoimmune responses to IA-2. Our findings also show that candidate gene expression studies can help in dissecting the complex genetic determinants of a multifactorial disease such as type 1 diabetes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism