Virtually all of the measurable cell-mediated cytotoxicity delivered by cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells comes from either the granule exocytosis pathway or the Fas pathway. The granule exocytosis pathway utilizes perforin to traffic the granzymes to appropriate locations in target cells, where they cleave critical substrates that initiate DNA fragmentation and apoptosis; granzymes A and B induce death via alternate, nonoverlapping pathways. The Fas/FasL system is responsible for activation-induced cell death but also plays an important role in lymphocyte-mediated killing under certain circumstances. The interplay between these two cytotoxic systems provides opportunities for therapeutic interventions to control autoimmune diseases and graft vs. host disease, but oversuppression of these pathways may also lead to increased viral susceptibility and/or decreased tumor cell killing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-370
Number of pages48
JournalAnnual Review of Immunology
StatePublished - 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Fas
  • Granule exocytosis
  • Granzymes
  • Perforin


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