Cytotoxic lymphocyte protease GrM (granzyme M) is a potent inducer of tumour cell death and a key regulator of inflammation. Although hGrM (human GrM) and mGrM (mouse GrM) display extensive sequence homology, the substrate specificity of mGrM remains unknown. In the present study, we show that hGrM and mGrM have diverged during evolution. Positional scanning libraries of tetrapeptide substrates revealed that mGrM is preferred to cleave after a methionine residue, whereas hGrM clearly favours a leucine residue at the P1 position. The kinetic optimal non-prime subsites of both granzymes were also distinct. Gel-based and complementary positional proteomics showed that hGrM and mGrM have a partially overlapping set of natural substrates and a diverged prime and non-prime consensus cleavage motif with leucine and methionine residues being major P1 determinants. Consistent with positional scanning libraries of tetrapeptide substrates, P1 methionine was more frequently used by mGrM as compared with hGrM. Both hGrM and mGrM cleaved α-tubulin with similar kinetics. Strikingly, neither hGrM nor mGrM hydrolysed mouse NPM (nucleophosmin), whereas human NPM was hydrolysed efficiently by GrM from both species. Replacement of the putative P1'-P2' residues in mouse NPM with the corresponding residues of human NPM restored cleavage of mouse NPM by both granzymes. This further demonstrates the importance of prime sites as structural determinants for GrM substrate specificity. GrM from both species efficiently triggered apoptosis in human but not in mouse tumour cells. These results indicate that hGrM and mGrM not only exhibit divergent specificities but also trigger species-specific functions.
© The Authors Journal compilation © 2011 Biochemical Society