Serine proteases (granzymes) in killer lymphocytes are required for lymphocyte cytotoxic granules to lyse target cells. Herein we report the development of a 3-step PCR cloning technique to amplify novel granzyme genes and two new rat granzymes are described. Degenerate oligonucleotide primers were designed based on sequence motifs selectively expressed in granzymes. These motifs flank "delta" regions that are unique for each granzyme. Total RNA of RNK-16 cells or activated splenocytes was amplified by reverse transcriptase-PCR to obtain cDNA fragments of several new granzymes. Gene-specific primers based on these delta regions were then used for 3'-RACE to obtain clones with the 3' gene ends. Reverse (antisense) delta-based or active site serine primers were used with a granzyme 5'-UTR primer to obtain clones extending to the 5' ends. Using this technique, two new cDNAs, RNKP-4 and RNKP-7, which encode granzymes of 248 and 241 amino acids, respectively, were cloned from activated lymphocytes. RNKP-4 is likely the rat equivalent of mouse granzyme C. RNKP-7 is most closely related to granzymes F and G. Modeling of the predicted proteins suggests large/polar P1 (Gln/Asn) specificity for RNKP-4 and large/hydrophobic P1 (e.g., Phe) specificity for RNKP-7. These specific protease activities were found in cytotoxic RNK-16 lymphocyte granules indicating that the two new genes may be translated and stored as active granzymes.