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J Immunol. 2005 Mar 15;174(6):3212-9.

Impaired cytolytic activity in calreticulin-deficient CTLs.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


Calreticulin is an endoplasmic reticulum-resident chaperone that is stored in the cytotoxic granules of CTLs and NK cells and is released with granzymes and perforin upon recognition of target cells. To investigate the role of calreticulin in CTL-mediated killing, we generated CTL lines from crt(+/+) and crt(-/-) mice expressing a constitutively active form of calcineurin in the heart. Crt(-/-) CTLs showed reduced cytotoxic activity toward allogeneic target cells despite normal production, intracellular localization, and activity of granzymes and despite perforin overexpression. Comparable or higher amounts of granzymes were degranulated by crt(-/-) cells in response to immobilized anti-CD3 Abs, indicating that calreticulin is dispensable for the signal transduction that leads to granule exocytosis. The ability to form conjugates with target cells was affected in the crt(-/-) CTLs, explaining the observed reduction in cytotoxicity. Conjugate formation and cytotoxicity were completely restored by treatments that facilitate recognition and contact with target cells, a prerequisite for degranulation and killing. Therefore, we conclude that calreticulin is dispensable for the cytolytic activity of granzymes and perforin, but it is required for efficient CTL-target cell interaction and for the formation of the death synapse.

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