CTL and NK cells produce a cytolytic pore-forming protein (perforin, cytolysin) localized in their cytoplasmic granules. These cytotoxic cells are resistant to killing mediated by other lymphocytes and by purified perforin. A membrane factor, known as homologous restriction factor (HRF), has been suggested to confer protection to different cell types against both C- and perforin-mediated lysis. The granules of human large granular lymphocytes have been reported to contain, in addition to perforin, a soluble HRF activity that can be eluted from anion-exchange columns at 115 mM NaCl. Here, we report that a soluble HRF activity is absent in the granules or the cytosol of murine CTL and human NK cells. Our data indicate that the inhibition attributed to HRF could be explained by exogenous EDTA added during granule fractionation. EDTA was shown to bind to Mono Q and to elute at 90 to 120 mM NaCl. A second perforin-inhibitory activity was also eluted from such a column. However, it was present in preparations obtained not only from CTL and NK cells, but also from some perforin-susceptible tumor cell lines, indicating that it has nonrestricted distribution and suggesting that it is probably irrelevant to the perforin-protection mechanism. Our results argue against a role for soluble granule HRF or other soluble factors in mediating resistance of cytotoxic lymphocytes against perforin-mediated lysis.

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