Perforin is an essential component in the cytotoxic lymphocyte mediated cell death pathway. The traditional view holds that perforin monomers assemble into pores in the target cell membrane via a calcium-dependent process, and facilitate translocation of cytotoxic proteases into the cytoplasm to induce apoptosis. While many studies have examined the structure and role of perforin, the mechanics of pore assembly and granzyme delivery remain unclear. Here we have employed quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) to investigate binding and assembly of perforin on lipid membranes, and show that perforin monomers bind to the membrane in a cooperative manner. We also found that cholesterol influences perforin binding and activity on intact cells and model membranes. Finally, contrary to current thinking, perforin efficiently binds membranes in the absence of calcium. When calcium is added to perforin already on the membrane, the QCM-D response changes significantly, indicating that perforin becomes membranolytic only after calcium binding.
Stewart, S. E., Bird, C. H., Tabor, R. F., D'Angelo, M., Piantavigna, S., Whisstock, J. C., Trapani, J. A., Martin, L. L., & Bird, P. I. (2015). Analysis of perforin assembly by quartz crystal microbalance reveals a role for cholesterol and calcium-independent membrane binding. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 290(52), 31101 - 31112. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M115.683078