Granzyme B is a protease involved in the induction of rapid target cell death by cytotoxic lymphocytes. Definition of the substrate specificity of granzyme B allows for the identification of in vivo substrates in this process. By using the combinatorial methods of synthetic substrate libraries and substrate-phage display, an optimal substrate for granzyme B that spans over six subsites was determined to be Ile-Glu-Xaa-(Asp downward arrowXaa)-Gly, with cleavage of the Asp downward arrowXaa peptide bond. Granzyme B proteolysis was shown to be highly dependent on the length and sequence of the substrate, supporting the role of granzyme B as a regulatory protease. Arginine 192 was identified as a determinant of P3-Glu and P1-Asp substrate specificity. Mutagenesis of arginine 192 to glutamate reversed the preference for negatively charged amino acids at P3 to positively charged amino acids. The preferred substrate sequence matches the activation sites of caspase 3 and caspase 7 and thus is consistent with the role of granzyme B in activation of these proteases during apoptosis. The caspase substrate poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase is cleaved by granzyme B in a cell-free assay at two sites that resemble the granzyme B specificity determined by the combinatorial methods. Many caspase substrates contain granzyme B cleavage sites and are proposed as potential granzyme B targets, suggesting a redundant function with certain caspases.
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