GAD-alum immunotherapy in type 1 diabetes expands bifunctional Th1/Th2 autoreactive CD4 T cells

Sefina Arif, Iria Gomez-Tourino, Yogesh Kamra, Irma Pujol-Autonell, Emily Hanton, Timothy Tree, Daisy Melandri, Caroline Hull, Diane K. Wherrett, Craig Beam, Bart O. Roep, Anna Lorenc, Mark Peakman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aims/hypothesis: Antigen-specific therapy aims to modify inflammatory T cell responses in type 1 diabetes and restore immune tolerance. One strategy employs GAD65 conjugated to aluminium hydroxide (GAD-alum) to take advantage of the T helper (Th)2-biasing adjuvant properties of alum and thereby regulate pathological Th1 autoimmunity. We explored the cellular and molecular mechanism of GAD-alum action in the setting of a previously reported randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted by Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet. Methods: In the clinical trial conducted by Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, participants were immunised with 20 μg GAD-alum (twice or three times) or alum alone and peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples were banked at baseline and post treatment. In the present study, GAD-specific T cell responses were measured in these samples and GAD-specific T cell lines and clones were generated, which were then further characterised. Results: At day 91 post immunisation, we detected GAD-specific IL-13+ CD4 T cell responses significantly more frequently in participants immunised with GAD-alum (71% and 94% treated twice or three times, respectively) compared with those immunised with alum alone (38%; p = 0.003 and p = 0.0002, respectively) accompanied by high secreted levels of IL-13, IL-4 and IL-5, confirming a GAD-specific, GAD-alum-induced Th2 response. Of note, GAD-specific, IL-13+ CD4 T cells observed after immunisation co-secreted IFN-γ, displaying a bifunctional Th1/Th2 phenotype. Single-cell transcriptome analysis identified IL13 and IFNG expression in concert with the canonical Th2 and Th1 transcription factor genes GATA3 and TBX21, respectively. T cell receptor β-chain (TCRB) CDR3 regions of GAD-specific bifunctional T cells were identified in circulating naive and central memory CD4 T cell pools of non-immunised participants with new-onset type 1 diabetes and healthy individuals, suggesting the potential for bifunctional responses to be generated de novo by GAD-alum immunisation or via expansion from an existing public repertoire. Conclusions/interpretation: GAD-alum immunisation activates and propagates GAD-specific CD4 T cells with a distinctive bifunctional phenotype, the functional analysis of which might be important in understanding therapeutic responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1198
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Autoreactive
  • Epitopes
  • GAD
  • GAD-alum
  • Glutamic acid decarboxylase
  • IL-13
  • Immunotherapy
  • T cell receptor
  • T cells
  • TCR
  • Th2
  • TrialNet


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