Characterization of three serine esterases isolated from human IL-2 activated killer cells

J Immunol. 1988 Nov 1;141(9):3142-7.


Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, activated for 14 to 20 days with 1000 U/ml rIL-2, develop strong cytotoxicity for NK sensitive and resistant targets. This process is accompanied by the acquisition of cytoplasmic granules in approximately 60% of the cells and by the expression of esterase activity cleaving the synthetic substrate BLT. The esterase activity, localized in the cytoplasmic granules, was purified and characterized. Three proteins with 3H-DFP binding activity were isolated and had the following properties. Following the proposed nomenclature by Masson et al., the esterases were named human granzymes 1, 2, and 3. Human granzyme 1 on SDS-PAGE has an unreduced relative m.w. of 43,000 and can form disulfide-linked oligomers of relative higher m.w. All forms of granzyme 1 bind 3H-DFP. Upon reduction, granzyme 1 migrates with Mr 30,000 on SDS-PAGE. Additional proteolytic fragments of Mr 24,000 and Mr 28,000 are observed in some reduced preparations. Granzyme 1 cleaves the substrate BLT and appears homologous with murine granzyme A. Human granzyme 2 has an unreduced relative m.w. of 30,000; after reduction, it migrates at Mr 32,000. Even though granzyme 2 binds 3H-DFT, it does not cleave BLT. Human granzyme 2 has properties similar to those of murine granzymes B-H. Human granzyme 3 has unreduced and reduced relative m.w. of 25,000 and 28,000, respectively. It is active in cleaving the substrate BLT. A murine analog for human granzyme 3 has not been described previously. N-terminal sequencing of the purified human granzymes revealed that human granzyme 1 is the gene product of human Hanuka factor cDNA clone and that it represents the human homolog to murine granzyme A. Similarly, human granzyme 2 revealed absolute identity with cDNA-derived N-terminal sequence of a putative human lymphocyte protease cDNA clone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Granzymes
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / enzymology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases / isolation & purification*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / enzymology


  • Interleukin-2
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Granzymes
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • GZMA protein, human