Regulation of pro-apoptotic leucocyte granule serine proteinases by intracellular serpins

Immunol Cell Biol. 1999 Feb;77(1):47-57. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1711.1999.00787.x.


Caspase activation and apoptosis can be initiated by the introduction of serine proteinases into the cytoplasm of a cell. Cytotoxic lymphocytes have evolved at least one serine proteinase with specific pro-apoptotic activity (granzyme B), as well as the mechanisms to deliver it into a target cell, and recent evidence suggests that other leucocyte granule proteinases may also have the capacity to kill if released into the interior of cells. For example, the monocyte/granulocyte proteinase cathepsin G can activate caspases in vitro, and will induce apoptosis if its entry into cells is mediated by a bacterial pore-forming protein. The potent pro-apoptotic activity of granzyme B and cathepsin G suggests that cells producing these (or other) proteinases would be at risk from self-induced death if the systems involved in packaging, degranulation or targeting fail and allow proteinases to enter the host cell cytoplasm. The purpose of the present review is to describe recent work on a group of intracellular serine proteinase inhibitors (serpins) which may function in leucocytes to prevent autolysis induced by the granule serine proteinases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cathepsin G
  • Cathepsins / metabolism
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / enzymology
  • Granzymes
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Leukocytes / enzymology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Ovalbumin / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / genetics
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Serpins / chemistry
  • Serpins / genetics
  • Serpins / metabolism*


  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Serpins
  • Ovalbumin
  • Cathepsins
  • GZMB protein, human
  • Granzymes
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • CTSG protein, human
  • Cathepsin G