Cytotoxic granules were isolated from human lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells and analyzed for their biochemical properties. Isolated granules of approximately 85–95% purity were obtained by differential centrifugation followed by discontinuous Percoll gradient centrifugation. The murine lymphocyte granule marker N-α-carbamazepine-l-lysine thiobenzyl ester-esterase as well as cytotoxic activity toward the human tumor cell lines K562, Raji, Daudi, and CEM were associated with LAK granule fractions. Granule-associated N-α-carbamazepine-l-lysine thiobenzyl ester-esterase activity increased in recombinant interleukin 2 expanded human LAK cells in parallel with cytotoxic activity for Raji tumor cell targets. Cytotoxic LAK cell granules mediated calcium-dependent killing of the tumor cell lines K562, Raji, Daudi, and CEM. However, no calcium-dependent hemolytic activity was found. Preincubation of human granules with calcium, a treatment which totally inactivates the hemolytic and cytotoxic activity of murine lymphocyte granules [perforin 1 (P1)] had no effect on human LAK granule cytotoxicity for nucleated cells. Human LAK granules appear to contain P1 detected as cross-reactive antigen detected by mouse anti-P1 and human anti-C9 in Western blot analysis. In addition, Northern blot analysis of polyadeny-lated RNA isolated from human LAK cells using a murine P1 complementary DNA probe showed a cross-hybridizing 2.8- to 3.0-kilobase mRNA species identical in size to murine P1 mRNA. These results demonstrate that despite similar biochemical composition, functional differences exist between human and murine cytotoxic granules. Human LAK granules were synthesized in response to recombinant interleukin 2 activation and appeared in parallel with cytotoxicity for tumor targets, suggesting an important role for LAK granules in tumor cell cytotoxicity by human LAK cells.


This work was supported by USPHS grants AI 18525 and CA 34524, American Cancer Society Grant IM396, and a grant by the Dr. I Fund Foundation to E. R. P.

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