Deciphering mechanisms involved in failure of self tolerance to preproinsulin-2 is a key issue in type 1 diabetes. We used nonautoimmune 129SV/Pas mice lacking preproinsulin-2 to study the immune response to preproinsulin-2. In these mice, a T cell response was detected after immunization with several preproinsulin-2 peptides and confirmed by generating hybridomas. Activation of some of these hybridomas by wild-type (wt) islet cells or recombinant murine proinsulin-2 demonstrated that two epitopes can be generated from the naturally expressed protein. Although T cells from wt mice responded to preproinsulin-2 peptides, we could not detect a response to the naturally processed epitopes in these mice. Moreover, after immunization with recombinant whole proinsulin-2, a T cell response was detected in preproinsulin-2-deficient but not in wt mice. This suggests that islet preproinsulin-2-autoreactive T cells are functionally eliminated in wt mice. We used a transplantation model to evaluate the relevance of reactivity to preproinsulin-2 in vivo. Wild-type preproinsulin-2-expressing islets transplanted in preproinsulin-2-deficient mice elicited a mononuclear cell infiltration and insulin Abs. Graft infiltration was further increased by immunization with preproinsulin-2 peptides. Preproinsulin-2 expression thus shapes the immune response and prevents self reactivity to the islet. Moreover, islet preproinsulin-2 primes an immune response to preproinsulin-2 in deficient mice.