Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) kill target cells by the polarized secretion of lytic granules containing molecules that trigger programmed cell death in the target cell. Here we imaged the exocytosis of lytic granules from human CD8+ CTLs in contact with stimulatory surfaces using rapid, multicolor Total Internal Refection microscopy. The fate of the limiting membrane of the lytic granule was followed using mGFP-tagged Lamp-1, while the fate of lytic granule cargo was followed using granzyme A, granzyme B or serglycin tagged with mRFP. Imaging revealed that lytic granules are released by full fusion with the plasma membrane such that the entire content of the granule for all three cargos visualized was released into the media on a subsecond time scale. The behavior of GFP-Lamp-1 was, however, more complex. Specifically, while it entered the plasma membrane in all cases, the extent to which it then diffused away from the site of exocytosis varied from nearly complete to highly restricted. This latter behavior was seen in the majority of cases and may facilitate a process of compensatory endocytosis. Finally, the diffusion properties upon release of the three cargos we visualized put an upper limit on the size of the macromolecular complex of granzyme and serglycin that is presented to the target cell.

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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