Granzymes (granule enzymes) are proteases released from cytotoxic lymphocyte granules into target cells to protect mammals from virus infection and transformed cells. Once released into the cytoplasm of the target cell, granzymes activate specific pathways to induce cell death. Although the induction of target cell death has been considered the central function for these proteases, accumulating evidence suggests that granzymes also possess additional non-death-related functions. Thus, some granzymes can achieve direct antiviral activities through the cleavage of proteins encoded by viruses as well as host factors required for the viral life cycle. The presence of elevated concentrations of circulating granzymes in various inflammatory processes and granzyme-mediated cleavage of extracellular substrates suggest that these proteases may have extracellular effects relevant to virus and tumor rejection and the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases. Here, we discuss the current knowledge of the substrates and the proposed non-apoptotic functions of granzymes, with special interest in non-death-related functions of granzymes inside the target cell.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy