Publications & Reports

Granzymes: a variety of serine protease specificities encoded by genetically distinct subfamilies.

Smyth MJ, O'Connor MD, Trapani JA, Kershaw MH, Brinkworth RI
Cellular Cytotoxicity Laboratory, Austin Research Institute, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.


Granzymes are a family of granule serine proteases found specifically in the cytotoxic granules of cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Granzymes have features that are strongly conserved including: consensus sequences at their N-termini and around the three catalytic residues, activation from zymogenic forms, and conserved disulphide bridges. However, there is good genetic evidence to suggest that three distinct subfamilies of granzymes have coevolved. These subfamilies are most strikingly depicted by their distinct chromosomal loci and gene organization, dividing the granzyme family into subfamilies of the following: tryptases (human chromosome 5); chymotrypsin-like proteases (human chromosome 14); and a Metase amongst a cluster of elastase-like proteases (human chromosome 19). Modeling and mutational analysis has revealed that each subfamily of granzymes displays special sequence and structural features and a proteolytic specificity determined by subtle modifications to substrate binding pocket residues. It now remains of great interest to determine whether these subfamilies also possess distinct biological functions. Granzyme B has been shown to play an important role in lymphocyte-mediated target cell apoptosis and the tryptase, granzyme A, has been demonstrated to regulate the clearance of some pox virus infections. The future creation of other granzyme gene knockout mice should elucidate whether other chymotrypsin-like granzymes (C-H) also contribute to target cell apoptosis and whether the third subfamily member, natural killer cell-specific Metase, has a distinct biological function.


  • Journal: Journal of Leukocyte Biology
  • Published: 01/11/1996
  • Volume: 60
  • Issue: 5
  • Pagination: 555-562