Differential cleavage of viral polypeptides by allotypic variants of granzyme B skews immunity to mouse cytomegalovirus

Vivien R. Sutton, Christopher Andoniou, Michael G. Leeming, Colin M. House, Sally V. Watt, Sandra Verschoor, Annette Ciccone, Ilia Voskoboinik, Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Joseph A. Trapani

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2 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the molecular basis for the remarkably different survival outcomes of mice expressing different alloforms of the pro-apoptotic serine protease granzyme B to mouse cytomegalovirus infection. Whereas C57BL/6 mice homozygous for granzyme BP (GzmBP/P) raise cytotoxic T lymphocytes that efficiently kill infected cells, those of C57BL/6 mice congenic for the outbred allele (GzmBW/W) fail to kill MCMV-infected cells and died from uncontrolled hepatocyte infection and acute liver failure. We identified subtle differences in how GzmBP and GzmBW activate cell death signalling - both alloforms predominantly activated pro-caspases directly, and cleaved pro-apoptotic Bid poorly. Consequently, neither alloform initiated mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, or was blocked by Bcl-2, Bcl-XL or co-expression of MCMV proteins M38.5/M41.1, which together stabilize mitochondria by sequestering Bak/Bax. Remarkably, mass spectrometric analysis of proteins from MCMV-infected primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts identified 13 cleavage sites in nine viral proteins (M18, M25, M28, M45, M80, M98, M102, M155, M164) that were cleaved >20-fold more efficiently by either GzmBP or GzmBW. Notably, M18, M28, M45, M80, M98, M102 and M164 were cleaved 20- >100-fold more efficiently by GzmBW, and so, would persist in infected cells targeted by CTLs from GzmBP/P mice. Conversely, M155 was cleaved >100-fold more efficiently by GzmBP, and would persist in cells targeted by CTLs of GzmBW/W mice. M25 was cleaved efficiently by both proteases, but at different sites. We conclude that different susceptibility to MCMV does not result from skewed endogenous cell death pathways, but rather, to as yet uncharacterised MCMV-intrinsic pathways that ultimately inhibit granzyme B-induced cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140457
Number of pages12
JournalBBA Proteins and Proteomics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Cytotoxic T lymphocyte
  • Granzyme B
  • Mouse cytomegalovirus
  • Perforin
  • Proteolysis

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