The CTL's kiss of death

Cell. 1995 Apr 7;81(1):9-12. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(95)90365-8.


The potent and specific lytic activity of CTLs can occur by at least two distinct pathways. In the secretion and perforin-mediated pathway, the direct effect(s) on the target cell membrane of the pore-forming agent perforin, probably in conjunction with granzymes, also secreted from the CTLs, causes the target's demise. Intercytoplasmic transfer of granzymes is believed to be involved in inducing target apoptosis. In the Fas-mediated pathway, engagement of a CTL membrane ligand with an apoptosis-inducing target cell surface receptor, such as the FasL with Fas, triggers programmed disintegration of the CTL-bound target; secretion of granzymes and pore formation by perforin are not involved in this receptor-mediated mechanism. Despite the fundamental differences in their onset for both pathways, the downstream sequence of events that culminate in target cell apoptosis appears to be similar. Further studies will resolve this enigma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Models, Immunological
  • Perforin
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / enzymology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • fas Receptor


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • fas Receptor
  • Perforin
  • Serine Endopeptidases