Cytotoxic lymphocytes (CLs) induce caspase activation and apoptosis of target cells either through Fas activation or through release of granule cytotoxins, particularly granzyme B. CLs themselves resist granule-mediated apoptosis but are eventually cleared via Fas-mediated apoptosis. Here we show that the CL cytoplasmic serpin proteinase inhibitor 9 (PI-9) can protect transfected cells against apoptosis induced by either purified granzyme B and perforin or intact CLs. A PI-9 P1 mutant (Glu to Asp) is a 100-fold-less- efficient granzyme B inhibitor that no longer protects against granzyme B- mediated apoptosis. PI-9 is highly specific for granzyme B because it does not inhibit eight of the nine caspases tested or protect transfected cells against Fas-mediated apoptosis. In contrast, the P1(Asp) mutant is an effective caspase inhibitor that protects against Fas-mediated apoptosis. We propose that PI-9 shields CLs specifically against misdirected granzyme B to prevent autolysis or fratricide, but it does not interfere with homeostatic deletion via Fas-mediated apoptosis.