Cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs) kill intracellular pathogens by a granule-dependent mechanism. Granulysin, a protein found in granules of CTLs, reduced the viability of a broad spectrum of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and parasites in vitro. Granulysin directly killed extracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis, altering the membrane integrity of the bacillus, and, in combination with perforin, decreased the viability of intracellular M. tuberculosis. The ability of CTLs to kill intracellular M. tuberculosis was dependent on the presence of granulysin in cytotoxic granules, defining a mechanism by which T cells directly contribute to immunity against intracellular pathogens.
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