The 9-23 amino acid region of the insulin B chain (B9-23) is a dominant epitope recognized by pathogenic T lymphocytes in nonobese diabetic mice, the animal model for type 1 diabetes. We describe herein similar (B9-23)-specific T-cell responses in peripheral lymphocytes obtained from patients with recent-onset type 1 diabetes and from prediabetic subjects at high risk for disease. Short-term T-cell lines generated from patient peripheral lymphocytes showed significant proliferative responses to (B9-23), whereas lymphocytes isolated from HLA and/or age-matched nondiabetic normal controls were unresponsive. Antibody-mediated blockade demonstrated that the response was HLA class II restricted. Use of the highly sensitive cytokine-detection ELISPOT assay revealed that these (B9-23)-specific cells were present in freshly isolated lymphocytes from only the type 1 diabetics and prediabetics and produced the proinflammatory cytokine IFN-gamma. This study is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of a cellular response to the (B9-23) insulin epitope in human type 1 diabetes and suggests that the mouse and human diseases have strikingly similar autoantigenic targets, a feature that should facilitate development of antigen-based therapeutics.