Granzymes are serine proteases present in secretory granules of cytolytic T lymphocyte lines. We have studied the expression of the granzyme family (granzyme A, B, C, D, E, F, and G) in different lymphoid cell populations and cell lines as well as in nonlymphoid cells and tissues. Our data show that with few exceptions expression of granzyme genes is restricted to T cells and their thymic precursors. In mature T cells granzymes are expressed only upon activation. The same is true for thymocytes, with the exception of grazyme A that is expressed also in non-stimulated cells. In T cells and thymocytes the distribution of mRNAs coding for different granzymes depends on the subpopulation tested and the activation protocol. Highly cytolytic PEL express granzymes A and B but none of the other granzymes.