Clinical and experimental immunology

Localization and identification of granzymes A and B-expressing cells in normal human lymphoid tissue and peripheral blood.

PMID 7697916


Cytoplasmic granules from activated natural killer (NK) and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) contain a pore-forming protein, perforin, and several homologous serine proteinases called granzymes. Expression of these proteins correlates with the cytolytic potential of cytotoxic lymphocytes. Using a panel of MoAbs specific for human granzyme A and B, respectively, expression of these proteinases in non-pathological lymphoid tissue and peripheral blood lymphocyte (PBL) subpopulations was investigated. Using immunohistochemistry and double stainings, the phenotype of granzyme-expressing cells in lymphoid tissue was investigated. Granzyme-positive cells were detected in all lymphoid tissues tested. No large differences in the number and distribution between granzyme A- and granzyme B-positive cells were observed. The highest number of positive cells was located in the red pulp of the spleen. Significant numbers were detected in tonsil, lymph nodes, liver and thymus. Low numbers were present in the lamina propria of non-inflamed stomach, small intestine and colon. Phenotypic analysis and cell sorting showed that most of the granzyme-positive cells in lymphoid tissue and PBL consisted of CD3-CD16+CD56+ lymphocytes. Hardly any granzyme-positive CD3+CD8+ CTL were present in peripheral blood. The synthesis of granzyme A as well as B by both CD3+CD16+CD56+ and CD3+CD8+ cells in peripheral blood was increased upon IL-2 stimulation. These results indicate that in normal lymphoid tissue the predominant cytolytic cell population is formed by the NK cells, and activated CTL are rare.