A role of the mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor in granulysin-induced apoptosis

J. Pardo, P. Pérez-Galán, S. Gamen, I. Marzo, I. Monleón, A. A. Kaspar, S. A. Susín, G. Kroemer, A. M. Krensky, J. Naval, A. Anel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Granulysin is a cytolytic molecule released by CTL via granule-mediated exocytosis. In a previous study we showed that granulysin induced apoptosis using both caspase- and ceramide-dependent and -independent pathways. In the present study we further characterize the biochemical mechanism for granulysin-induced apoptosis of tumor cells. Granulysin-induced death is significantly inhibited by Bcl-2 overexpression and is associated with a rapid (1-5 h) loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, which is not mediated by ceramide generation and is not inhibited by the general caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone. Ceramide generation induced by granulysin is a slow event, only observable at longer incubation times (12 h). Apoptosis induced by exogenous natural (C18) ceramide is truly associated with mitochondrial membrane potential loss, but contrary to granulysin, this event is inhibited by benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone. Ceramide-induced apoptosis is also completely prevented by Bcl-2 overexpression. The nuclear morphology of cells dying after granulysin treatment in the presence of caspase inhibitors suggested the involvement of mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) in granulysin-induced cell death. We demonstrate using confocal microscopy that AIF is translocated from mitochondria to the nucleus during granulysin-induced apoptosis. The majority of Bcl-2 transfectants are protected from granulysin-induced cell death, mitochondrial membrane potential loss, and AIF translocation, while a small percentage are not protected. In this small percentage the typical nuclear apoptotic morphology is delayed, being of the AIF type at 5 h time, while at longer times (12 h) the normal apoptotic morphology is predominant. These and previous results support a key role for the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, and especially for AIF, during granulysin-induced tumoral cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1222-1229
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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