Granzyme B cleavage of autoantigens in autoimmunity

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The systemic autoimmune diseases are a complex group of disorders characterized by elaboration of high titer autoantibodies and immune-mediated damage of tissues. Two striking features of autoimmune rheumatic diseases are their self-sustaining nature and capacity for autoamplification, exemplified by disease flares. These features suggest the presence of a feed-forward cycle in disease propagation, in which immune effector pathways drive the generation/release of autoantigens, which in turn fuel the immune response. There is a growing awareness that structural modification during cytotoxic granule-induced cell death is a frequent and striking feature of autoantigens, and may be an important principle driving disease. This review focuses on granzyme B (GrB)-mediated cleavage of autoantigens including (i) features of GrB cleavage sites within autoantigens, (ii) co-location of cleavage sites with autoimmune epitopes, and (iii) GrB sensitivity of autoantigens in disease-relevant target tissue. The mechanisms whereby GrB-induced changes in autoantigen structure may contribute to the initiation and propagation of autoimmunity are reviewed and reveal that GrB has the potential to create or destroy autoimmune epitopes. As there remains no direct evidence showing a causal function for GrB cleavage of antigens in the generation of autoimmunity, this review highlights important outstanding questions about the function of GrB in autoantigen selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-632
Number of pages9
JournalCell death and differentiation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Antigen processing
  • Autoantibody
  • Autoantigen
  • Autoimmunity
  • Granzyme
  • Proteolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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