Synergistic inhibition of human cell-mediated cytotoxicity by complement component antisera indicates that target cell lysis may result from an enzymatic cascade involving granzymes and perforin

Z. Brahmi, I. Csipo, M. R. Bochan, B. Su, A. H. Montel, Jr Morse

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A widely accepted theory of lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity-(CMC) proposes that upon effector cell (EC) and target cell (TC) interaction, release of perforin, serine proteases and other lytic moieties contained within cytoplasmic granules results in TC lysis. Complement activation and the activation of the various enzymatic activities associated with cytotoxic granules have strikingly similar modes of action and both lead to pore formation in their respective targets. We report here that by using antisera to early and late complement components we were able to inhibit CTL, NK and ADCC cytotoxicity up to 100%, even though binding of EC to TC was unaffected. Furthermore, we showed that addition of C1q or C1s (two serine proteases) antisera to C9 antisera, at titers too low to inhibit separately, resulted in synergistic inhibition of CMC. Anti-C1s together with anti-C1q (or anti-C8 with anti-C9) did not result in synergy. This finding supports a cascade model of activation for lytic molecules released from EC. In addition, we demonstrated that anti-C1q and anti-C1s bind to proteins in the 30-kD region and anti-C9 binds to proteins in the 70-kD region, coinciding with published molecular weights of granzymes and perforin, respectively. Finally, lytic ability of purified granules was also inhibited by complement antisera, further suggesting that activation occurs outside of TC. Taken as a whole, these data indicate that TC lysis may be the result of a cascade of events involving granzymes and perforin, analogous to that seen with the complement system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-285
Number of pages15
JournalNatural Immunity
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 1995



  • Complement
  • Cytolytic T lymphocytes
  • Cytotoxicity, cell-mediated
  • Granzyme B
  • Natural killer cells
  • Perforin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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