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Blood. 2010 Nov 4;116(18):3465-74. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-03-273953. Epub 2010 Jul 21.

Granulysin activates antigen-presenting cells through TLR4 and acts as an immune alarmin.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Cancer and Inflammation Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute- Frederick/NIH, Frederick, MD, USA.


Granulysin (GNLY), an antimicrobial protein present in the granules of human cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells, is produced as an intact 15-kDa form that is cleaved to yield a 9-kDa form. Alarmins are endogenous mediators that can induce recruitment and activation of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and consequently promote the generation of immune response. We hypothesized that GNLY might function as an alarmin. Here, we report that both 9- and 15-kDa forms of recombinant GNLY-induced in vitro chemotaxis and activation of both human and mouse dendritic cells (DCs), recruited inflammatory leucocytes, including APCs in mice, and promoted antigen-specific immune responses upon coadministration with an antigen. GNLY-induced APC recruitment and activation required the presence of Toll-like receptor 4. The observed activity of recombinant GNLY was not due to endotoxin contamination. The capability of the supernatant of GNLY-expressing HuT78 cells to activate DC was blocked by anti-GNLY antibodies. Finally we present evidence that supernatants of degranulated human NK92 or primary NK cells also activated DCs in a GNLY- and Toll-like receptor 4-dependent manner, indicating the physiologic relevance of our findings. Thus, GNLY is the first identified lymphocyte-derived alarmin capable of promoting APC recruitment, activation, and antigen-specific immune response.

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