Low-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) represents a new therapeutic approach to regulate immune homeostasis to promote immune tolerance in patients with autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes. We have developed a new IL-2–based biologic, an IL-2/CD25 fusion protein, with greatly improved pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics when compared with recombinant IL-2 to enhance this type of immunotherapy. In this study, we show that low-dose mouse IL-2/CD25 (mIL-2/CD25), but not an equivalent amount of IL-2, prevents the onset of diabetes in NOD mice and controls diabetes in hyperglycemic mice. mIL-2/CD25 acts not only to expand regulatory T cells (Tregs) but also to increase their activation and migration into lymphoid tissues and the pancreas. Lower incidence of diabetes is associated with increased serum levels of IL-10, a cytokine readily produced by activated Tregs. These effects likely act in concert to lower islet inflammation while increasing Tregs in the remaining inflamed islets. mIL-2/CD25 treatment is also associated with lower anti-insulin autoantibody levels in part by inhibition of T follicular helper cells. Thus, long-acting mIL-2/CD25 represents an improved IL-2 analog that persistently elevates Tregs to maintain a favorable Treg/effector T cell ratio that limits diabetes by expansion of activated Tregs that readily migrate into lymphoid tissues and the pancreas while inhibiting autoantibodies.
- Received February 21, 2020.
- Accepted August 21, 2020.
- © 2020 by the American Diabetes Association