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J Clin Invest. 2006 Jan;116(1):182-92. Epub 2005 Dec 22.

Aberrant maturation of mutant perforin underlies the clinical diversity of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.

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  • 1Division of Allergy/Immunology and Division of Hematology/Oncology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, USA.


Missense mutations in perforin, a critical effector of lymphocyte cytotoxicity, lead to a spectrum of diseases, from familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis to an increased risk of tumorigenesis. Understanding of the impact of mutations has been limited by an inability to express human perforin in vitro. We have shown, for the first time to our knowledge, that recombinant human perforin is expressed, processed appropriately, and functional in rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells following retroviral transduction. Subsequently, we have addressed how perforin missense mutations lead to absent perforin detection and impaired cytotoxicity by analyzing 21 missense mutations by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and immunoblot. We identified perforin missense mutations with partial maturation (class 1), no apparent proteolytic maturation (class 2), and no recognizable forms of perforin (class 3). Class 1 mutations exhibit lytic function when expressed in RBL cells and are associated with residual protein detection and variable cytotoxic function in affected individuals, suggesting that carriers of class 1 alleles may exhibit more subtle immune defects. By contrast, class 3 mutations cause severely diminished perforin detection and cytotoxicity, while class 2 mutations have an intermediate phenotype. Thus, the pathologic mechanism of perforin missense mutation likely involves a protein dosage effect of the mature protein.

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