Distinct GSDMB protein isoforms and protease cleavage processes differentially control pyroptotic cell death and mitochondrial damage in cancer cells

Cell Death Differ. 2023 May;30(5):1366-1381. doi: 10.1038/s41418-023-01143-y. Epub 2023 Mar 11.


Gasdermin (GSDM)-mediated pyroptosis is functionally involved in multiple diseases, but Gasdermin-B (GSDMB) exhibit cell death-dependent and independent activities in several pathologies including cancer. When the GSDMB pore-forming N-terminal domain is released by Granzyme-A cleavage, it provokes cancer cell death, but uncleaved GSDMB promotes multiple pro-tumoral effects (invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance). To uncover the mechanisms of GSDMB pyroptosis, here we determined the GSDMB regions essential for cell death and described for the first time a differential role of the four translated GSDMB isoforms (GSDMB1-4, that differ in the alternative usage of exons 6-7) in this process. Accordingly, we here prove that exon 6 translation is essential for GSDMB mediated pyroptosis, and therefore, GSDMB isoforms lacking this exon (GSDMB1-2) cannot provoke cancer cell death. Consistently, in breast carcinomas the expression of GSDMB2, and not exon 6-containing variants (GSDMB3-4), associates with unfavourable clinical-pathological parameters. Mechanistically, we show that GSDMB N-terminal constructs containing exon-6 provoke cell membrane lysis and a concomitant mitochondrial damage. Moreover, we have identified specific residues within exon 6 and other regions of the N-terminal domain that are important for GSDMB-triggered cell death as well as for mitochondrial impairment. Additionally, we demonstrated that GSDMB cleavage by specific proteases (Granzyme-A, Neutrophil Elastase and caspases) have different effects on pyroptosis regulation. Thus, immunocyte-derived Granzyme-A can cleave all GSDMB isoforms, but in only those containing exon 6, this processing results in pyroptosis induction. By contrast, the cleavage of GSDMB isoforms by Neutrophil Elastase or caspases produces short N-terminal fragments with no cytotoxic activity, thus suggesting that these proteases act as inhibitory mechanisms of pyroptosis. Summarizing, our results have important implications for understanding the complex roles of GSDMB isoforms in cancer or other pathologies and for the future design of GSDMB-targeted therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gasdermins
  • Granzymes / genetics
  • Granzymes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Elastase / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Pyroptosis*


  • Granzymes
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Leukocyte Elastase
  • Gasdermins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Caspases
  • Protein Isoforms
  • GSDMB protein, human
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins