Defects in IL-4-producing CD1d-autoreactive NKT cells have been implicated in numerous Th1-mediated autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and systemic sclerosis. Particular attention has been focused on autoimmune insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) because nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice and humans with IDDM are both reported to express severe deficiencies in the frequency and Th2 functions of NKT cells. Furthermore, experimental manipulations of the NKT defect in the NOD mouse induced corresponding changes in disease. Taken together, these converging studies suggested a general role of NKT cells in natural protection against destructive autoimmunity. However, in previous reports the identification of NKT cells was based on indirect methods. We have now devised a direct, highly specific CD1d tetramer-based methodology to test whether humans with IDDM have associated NKT cell defects. Surprisingly, although we find marked and stable differences in NKT cells between individuals, our study of IDDM patients and healthy controls, including discordant twin pairs, demonstrates that NKT cell frequency and IL-4 production are conserved during the course of IDDM. These results contradict previous conclusions and refute the hypothesis that NKT cell defects underlie most autoimmune diseases.