Extracellular Granzyme A Promotes Colorectal Cancer Development by Enhancing Gut Inflammation

Cell Rep. 2020 Jul 7;32(1):107847. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107847.


If not properly regulated, the inflammatory immune response can promote carcinogenesis, as evident in colorectal cancer (CRC). Aiming to gain mechanistic insight into the link between inflammation and CRC, we perform transcriptomics analysis of human CRC, identifying a strong correlation between expression of the serine protease granzyme A (GzmA) and inflammation. In a dextran sodium sulfate and azoxymethane (DSS/AOM) mouse model, deficiency and pharmacological inhibition of extracellular GzmA both attenuate gut inflammation and prevent CRC development, including the initial steps of cell transformation and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Mechanistically, extracellular GzmA induces NF-κB-dependent IL-6 production in macrophages, which in turn promotes STAT3 activation in cultured CRC cells. Accordingly, colon tissues from DSS/AOM-treated, GzmA-deficient animals present reduced levels of pSTAT3. By identifying GzmA as a proinflammatory protease that promotes CRC development, these findings provide information on mechanisms that link immune cell infiltration to cancer progression and present GzmA as a therapeutic target for CRC.

Keywords: IL6; STAT3; colorectal cancer; extracellular; granzyme; gut; inflammation; macrophage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Azoxymethane
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Disease Progression
  • Extracellular Space / enzymology*
  • Granzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Granzymes / genetics
  • Granzymes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Mice, Knockout
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammasomes
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-6
  • NF-kappa B
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • GZMB protein, human
  • Granzymes
  • granzyme A, mouse
  • GZMA protein, human
  • Azoxymethane