Identification and characterisation of tertiary lymphoid organs in human type 1 diabetes

Éva Korpos, Nadir Kadri, Sophie Loismann, Clais R. Findeisen, Frank Arfuso, George W. Burke, Sarah J. Richardson, Noel G. Morgan, Marika Bogdani, Alberto Pugliese, Lydia Sorokin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aims/hypothesis: We and others previously reported the presence of tertiary lymphoid organs (TLOs) in the pancreas of NOD mice, where they play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. Our aims here are to investigate whether TLOs are present in the pancreas of individuals with type 1 diabetes and to characterise their distinctive features, in comparison with TLOs present in NOD mouse pancreases, in order to interpret their functional significance. Methods: Using immunofluorescence confocal microscopy, we examined the extracellular matrix (ECM) and cellular constituents of pancreatic TLOs from individuals with ongoing islet autoimmunity in three distinct clinical settings of type 1 diabetes: at risk of diabetes; at/after diagnosis; and in the transplanted pancreas with recurrent diabetes. Comparisons were made with TLOs from 14-week-old NOD mice, which contain islets exhibiting mild to heavy leucocyte infiltration. We determined the frequency of the TLOs in human type 1diabetes with insulitis and investigated the presence of TLOs in relation to age of onset, disease duration and disease severity. Results: TLOs were identified in preclinical and clinical settings of human type 1 diabetes. The main characteristics of these TLOs, including the cellular and ECM composition of reticular fibres (RFs), the presence of high endothelial venules and immune cell subtypes detected, were similar to those observed for TLOs from NOD mouse pancreases. Among 21 donors with clinical type 1 diabetes who exhibited insulitis, 12 had TLOs and had developed disease at younger age compared with those lacking TLOs. Compartmentalised TLOs with distinct T cell and B cell zones were detected in donors with short disease duration. Overall, TLOs were mainly associated with insulin-containing islets and their frequency decreased with increasing severity of beta cell loss. Parallel studies in NOD mice further revealed some differences in so far as regulatory T cells were essentially absent from human pancreatic TLOs and CCL21 was not associated with RFs. Conclusions/interpretation: We demonstrate a novel feature of pancreas pathology in type 1 diabetes. TLOs represent a potential site of autoreactive effector T cell generation in islet autoimmunity and our data from mouse and human tissues suggest that they disappear once the destructive process has run its course. Thus, TLOs may be important for type 1 diabetes progression. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1626-1641
Number of pages16
Issue number7
Early online date29 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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