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L Monetini, F Barone, L Stefanini, A Petrone, T Walk, G Jung, R Thorpe, P Pozzilli, and MG Cavallo

Enhanced cellular immune response to bovine beta-casein has been reported in patients with type 1 diabetes. In this study we aimed to establish beta-casein-specific T cell lines from newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic patients and to characterise these cell lines in terms of phenotype and epitope specificity. Furthermore, since sequence homologies exist between beta-casein and putative beta-cell autoantigens, reactivity to the latter was also investigated. T cell lines were generated from the peripheral blood of nine recent onset type 1 diabetic patients with different HLA-DQ and -DR genotypes, after stimulation with antigen pulsed autologous irradiated antigen presenting cells (APCs) and recombinant human interleukin-2 (rhIL-2). T cell line reactivity was evaluated in response to bovine beta-casein, to 18 overlapping peptides encompassing the whole sequence of beta-casein and to beta-cell antigens, including the human insulinoma cell line, CM, and a peptide from the beta-cell glucose transporter, GLUT-2. T cell lines specific to beta-casein could not be isolated from HLA-matched and -unmatched control subjects. beta-Casein T cell lines reacted to different sequences of the protein, however a higher frequency of T cell reactivity was observed towards the C-terminal portion (peptides B05-14, and B05-17 in 5/9 and 4/9 T cell lines respectively). Furthermore, we found that 1 out of 9 beta-casein-specific T cell lines reacted also to the homologous peptide from GLUT-2, and that 3 out of 4 of tested cell lines reacted also to extracts of the human insulinoma cell line, CM. We conclude that T cell lines specific to bovine beta-casein can be isolated from the peripheral blood of patients with type 1 diabetes; these cell lines react with multiple and different sequences of the protein particularly towards the C-terminal portion. In addition, reactivity of beta-casein T cell lines to human insulinoma extracts and GLUT-2 peptide was detected, suggesting that the potential cross-reactivity with beta-cell antigens deserves further investigation.

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FF Rommerts, FM Lyng, E von Ledebur, L Quinlan, GR Jones, JB Warchol, M Stefanini, N Ravindranath, and M Joffre

When results of more than ten different studies on hormone-induced calcium signals in Sertoli cells are taken together, a wide variety of responses emerges. The reported changes range from increased concentrations, via no response at all, to decreased calcium concentrations. Minor variations in cell isolation techniques, culture conditions, or techniques for measuring the intracellular calcium could explain some of these differences. However, erratic variations in response are also observed within research groups under very similar experimental conditions. Such 'negative' findings are mainly reported orally and do not further penetrate the scientific community. As hormone-dependent calcium responses evidently may depend very much on the context of the cells, calcium transients would appear to be unreliable bioassay principles with which to detect the primary actions of FSH and effectors such as androgens on Sertoli cells. A more important biological question is whether these sometimes opposed calcium transients are connected with a particular cellular response. To date there is no evidence for such a tight coupling in Sertoli cells, implying that, at least under in vitro conditions, calcium signals might even be redundant altogether. Such calcium variability is probably not unique to Sertoli cells, and the aim of this commentary is to promote an open debate that may help to transform the current state of 'calcium confusion' into a better understanding of the intracellular calcium language.