AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: The aim of this study was to characterise islet autoantibody profiles and immune cell phenotypes in slow progressors to type 1 diabetes.METHODS: Immunological variables were compared across peripheral blood samples obtained from slow progressors to type 1 diabetes, individuals with newly diagnosed or long-standing type 1 diabetes, and healthy individuals. Polychromatic flow cytometry was used to characterise the phenotypic attributes of B and T cells. Islet autoantigen-specific B cells were quantified using an enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISpot) assay and islet autoantigen-specific CD8+ T cells were quantified using peptide-HLA class I tetramers. Radioimmunoassays were used to detect islet autoantibodies. Sera were assayed for various chemokines, cytokines and soluble receptors via ELISAs.RESULTS: Islet autoantibodies were lost over time in slow progressors. Various B cell subsets expressed higher levels of CD95 in slow progressors, especially after polyclonal stimulation, compared with the corresponding B cell subsets in healthy donors (p < 0.05). The phenotypic characteristics of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were similar in slow progressors and healthy donors. Lower frequencies of CD4+ T cells with a central memory phenotype (CD27int, CD127+, CD95int) were observed in slow progressors compared with healthy donors (mean percentage of total CD4+ T cells was 3.00% in slow progressors vs 4.67% in healthy donors, p < 0.05). Autoreactive B cell responses to proinsulin were detected at higher frequencies in slow progressors compared with healthy donors (median no. of spots was 0 in healthy donors vs 24.34 in slow progressors, p < 0.05) in an ELISpot assay. Islet autoantigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses were largely absent in slow progressors and healthy donors. Serum levels of DcR3, the decoy receptor for CD95L, were elevated in slow progressors compared with healthy donors (median was 1087 pg/ml in slow progressors vs 651 pg/ml in healthy donors, p = 0.06).CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: In this study, we found that slow progression to type 1 diabetes was associated with a loss of islet autoantibodies and a distinct B cell phenotype, consistent with enhanced apoptotic regulation of peripheral autoreactivity via CD95. These phenotypic changes warrant further studies in larger cohorts to determine their functional implications.