Genetic deletion of interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), a member of the IRF family of transcriptional factors, has been shown to protect from autoimmune disease in several mouse models but not in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse. We have developed IRF4 deficient NOD mice and found that diabetes/insulitis and autoantibody production were completely suppressed in IRF4-deficient heterozygous as well as homozygous NOD mice. Adoptive transfer study into NOD-Scid mice showed that total deficiency of IRF4 or alternate deficiency in either CD4+, CD8+ T cells from the transferred effector T cells protected from diabetes although heterozygous deficiency of IRF-4 conferred partial disease resistance. Homozygous, but not heterozygous IRF4 deficiency diminished the number of memory, naïve or IL-17 producing cells in CD4+ T cells and granzyme B /perforine producing cells in CD8+ T cells.
These results indicated that an expression of IRF4 in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells plays a critical role in developing autoimmune diabetes and that haploinsufficiency of IRF4 protects from diabetes in the NOD mice.