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Nat Rev Immunol. 2003 May;3(5):361-70.

The ABCs of granule-mediated cytotoxicity: new weapons in the arsenal.

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Center for Blood Research and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Granule exocytosis is the main pathway for the immune elimination of virus-infected cells and tumour cells by cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. After target-cell recognition, release of the cytotoxic granule contents into the immunological synapse formed between the killer cell and its target induces apoptosis. The granules contain two membrane-perturbing proteins, perforin and granulysin, and a family of serine proteases known as granzymes, complexed with the proteoglycan serglycin. In this review, I discuss recent insights into the mechanisms of granule-mediated cytotoxicity, focusing on how granzymes A, B and C and granulysin activate cell death through caspase-independent pathways.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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