Introduction: Granzyme B is a serine protease extensively studied for its implication in cytotoxic lymphocyte-mediated apoptosis. In recent years, the paradigm that the role of granzyme B is restricted to immune cell-mediated killing has been challenged as extracellular roles for the protease have emerged. While mostly absent from healthy tissues, granzyme B levels are elevated in several autoimmune and/or chronic inflammatory conditions. In the skin, its accumulation significantly impairs proper wound healing.
Areas covered: After an overview of the current knowledge on granzyme B, a description of newly identified functions will be presented, focussing on granzyme B ability to promote cell-cell and dermal-epidermal junction disruption, extracellular matrix degradation, vascular permeabilization, and epithelial barrier dysfunction. Progress in granzyme B inhibition, as well as the use of granzyme B inhibitors for the treatment of tissue damage, will be discussed.
Expert opinion: The absence of endogenous extracellular inhibitors renders extracellular granzyme B accumulation deleterious for the proper healing of chronic wounds due to sustained proteolytic activity. Consequently, specific granzyme B inhibitors have been developed as new therapeutic approaches. Beyond applications in wound healing, other autoimmune and/or chronic inflammatory conditions related to exacerbated granzyme B activity may also benefit from the development of these inhibitors.
Keywords: Granzyme B; inflammation; skin integrity; small molecule inhibitor; tissue remodeling; wound healing.