Granzymes drive a rapid listeriolysin O-induced T cell apoptosis

Javier A. Carrero, Hector Vivanco-Cid, Emil R. Unanue

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29 Scopus citations


The Listeria monocytogenes protein listeriolysin O (LLO) is a pore-forming protein essential for virulence. Although the major role for LLO is to allow L. monocytogenes entry into the cytosol, it also induces apoptosis of activated lymphocytes, an obligatory cellular response that modulates the infection. Induction of apoptosis by LLO proceeds through a fast, caspase-dependent pathway and a slow, caspase-independent pathway. Polyclonal T cell lines were generated from either normal mice or mice deficient in granzyme and perforin proteins, and then treated with apoptogenic doses of LLO. In this study we show that apoptosis of lymphocytes induced by LLO was characterized by activation of caspases as quickly as 30 min that was dependent on the expression of granzymes. In the absence of granzymes, all parameters of apoptosis such as caspase activation, phosphatidylserine exposure, mitochondrial depolarization, and DNA fragmentation were dramatically reduced in magnitude. Removal of perforin inhibited the apoptotic effect of LLO on cells by ∼50%. Neutralization of intracellular acidification using chloroquine inhibited the rapid apoptotic death. In agreement with these findings granzyme-deficient mice harbored lower bacterial titers and decrease splenic pathology compared with normal mice following L. monocytogenes infection. Thus, LLO exploits apoptotic enzymes of the adaptive immune response to eliminate immune cells and increase its virulence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1365-1374
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2008


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