Granzyme B-mediated apoptosis proceeds predominantly through a Bcl-2-inhibitable mitochondrial pathway

The Journal of Biological Chemistry
M J PinkoskiD R Green

Abstract

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes kill virus-infected and tumor cell targets through the concerted action of proteins contained in cytolytic granules, primarily granzyme B and perforin. Granzyme B, a serine proteinase with substrate specificity similar to the caspase family of apoptotic cysteine proteinases, is capable of cleaving and activating a number of death proteins in target cells. Despite the ability to engage the death pathway at multiple entry points, the preferred mechanism for rapid induction of apoptosis by granzyme B has yet to be clearly established. Here we use time lapse confocal microscopy to demonstrate that mitochondrial cytochrome c release is the primary mode of granzyme B-induced apoptosis and that Bcl-2 is a potent inhibitor of this pivotal event. Caspase activation is not required for cytochrome c release, an activity that correlates with cleavage and activation of Bid, which we have found to be cleaved more readily by granzyme B than either caspase-3 or caspase-8. Bcl-2 blocks the rapid destruction of targets by granzyme B by blocking mitochondrial involvement in the process.

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