Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD)65 is an early and important antigen in both human diabetes mellitus and the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse. However, the exact role of GAD65-specific T cells in diabetes pathogenesis is unclear. T cell responses to GAD65 occur early in diabetes pathogenesis, yet only one GAD65-specific T cell clone of many identified can transfer diabetes. We have generated transgenic mice on the NOD background expressing a T cell receptor (TCR)-specific for peptide epitope 286-300 (p286) of GAD65. These mice have GAD65-specific CD4(+) T cells, as shown by staining with an I-A(g7)(p286) tetramer reagent. Lymphocytes from these TCR transgenic mice proliferate and make interferon gamma, interleukin (IL)-2, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and IL-10 when stimulated in vitro with GAD65 peptide 286-300, yet these TCR transgenic animals do not spontaneously develop diabetes, and insulitis is virtually undetectable. Furthermore, in vitro activated CD4 T cells from GAD 286 TCR transgenic mice express higher levels of CTL-associated antigen (CTLA)-4 than nontransgenic littermates. CD4(+) T cells, or p286-tetramer(+)CD4(+) Tcells, from GAD65 286-300-specific TCR transgenic mice delay diabetes induced in NOD.scid mice by diabetic NOD spleen cells. This data suggests that GAD65 peptide 286-300-specific T cells have disease protective capacity and are not pathogenic.