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Differential expression of granzymes A and B in human cytotoxic lymphocyte subsets and T regulatory cells. Blood 2004 Nov 01;104(9):2840-8



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-5644238762 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   406 Citations


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cells use the perforin/granzyme pathway as a major mechanism to kill pathogen-containing cells and tumor cells.(1,2) Dysregulation of this pathway results in several human diseases, such as hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. Here we characterize the single-cell expression pattern of granzymes A and B in human lymphocytes using a flow cytometry-based assay. We demonstrate that most circulating CD56(+)8(-) NK cells, and approximately half of circulating CD8(+) T lymphocytes, coexpressed both granzymes A and B. In contrast, few circulating CD4(+) T lymphocytes expressed granzymes A or B. Activation of CD8(+) T lymphocytes with concanavalin A (ConA)/interleukin-2 (IL-2), and activation of CD4(+) T lymphocytes with antibodies to CD3/CD28 or CD3/CD46 (to generate T regulatory [Tr1] cells), induced substantial expression of granzyme B, but not granzyme A. Naive CD4(+)CD45RA(+) cells stimulated with antibodies to CD3/CD46 strongly expressed granzyme B, while CD3/CD28 stimulation was ineffective. Finally, we show that granzyme B-expressing CD4(+) Tr1 cells are capable of killing target cells in a perforin-dependent, but major histocompatibility complex (MHC)/T-cell receptor (TCR)-independent, manner. Our results demonstrate discordant expression of granzymes A and B in human lymphocyte subsets and T regulatory cells, which suggests that different granzymes may play unique roles in immune system responses and regulation.

Author List

Grossman WJ, Verbsky JW, Tollefsen BL, Kemper C, Atkinson JP, Ley TJ


James Verbsky MD, PhD Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Cells, Cultured
Flow Cytometry
Gene Expression Regulation
Killer Cells, Natural
Lymphocyte Activation
Membrane Glycoproteins
Mice, Knockout
Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
Serine Endopeptidases
T-Lymphocyte Subsets
T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic