The rate of decline in insulin secretion after diagnosis with type 1 diabetes (T1D) varies substantially among individuals and with age at diagnosis, but the mechanism(s) behind this heterogeneity are not well understood. We investigated the loss of pancreatic β cell function in new-onset T1D subjects using unbiased whole blood RNA-seq and verified key findings by targeted cell count measurements. We found that patients who lost insulin secretion more rapidly had immune phenotypes (“immunotypes”) characterized by higher levels of B cells and lower levels of neutrophils, especially neutrophils expressing primary granule genes. The B cell and neutrophil immunotypes showed strong age dependence, with B cell levels in particular predicting rate of progression in young subjects only. This age relationship suggested that therapy targeting B cells in T1D would be most effective in young subjects with high pretreatment B cell levels, a prediction which was supported by data from a clinical trial of rituximab in new-onset subjects. These findings demonstrate a link between age-related immunotypes and disease outcome in new-onset T1D. Furthermore, our data suggest that greater success could be achieved by targeted use of immunomodulatory therapy in specific T1D populations defined by age and immune characteristics.
Matthew J. Dufort, Carla J. Greenbaum, Cate Speake, Peter S. Linsley