CTLs kill targets by inducing them to die through apoptosis. A number of morphological and biochemical events are now recognized as characteristic features of the apoptotic program. Among these, the disruption of the inner mitochondrial transmembrane potential (Delta Psi m) and the release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm appear to be early events in many systems, leading to the activation of caspase-3 and, subsequently, nuclear apoptosis. We show here that, in Jurkat targets treated in vitro with purified granzyme B and perforin or granzyme B and adenovirus, Delta Psi m collapse, reactive oxygen species production, and cytochrome c release from mitochondria were observed. Loss of Delta Psi m was also detected in an in vivo system where green fluorescent protein-expressing targets were attacked by a cytotoxic T cell line that kills predominantly through the granzyme pathway. DNA fragmentation, phosphatidylserine externalization, and reactive oxygen species production were inhibited in the presence of the caspase inhibitors benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethyl ketone (zVAD-fmk) and benzyloxycarbonyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-fluoromethyl ketone (zDEVD-fmk) in our in vitro system. Importantly, in either the in vitro or in vivo systems, these inhibitors at concentrations up to 100 microM did not prevent Delta Psi m collapse. In addition, cytochrome c release was observed in the in vitro system in the absence or presence of zVAD-fmk. Thus the granzyme B-dependent killing pathway in Jurkat targets involves mitochondrial alterations that occur independently of caspases.
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