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    •       Granzyme B degrades extracellular matrix and contributes to delayed wound closure in apolipoprotein E knockout mice.

                Hiebert PR, Wu D, Granville DJ.

                Cell Death & Differentiation. (2013) doi: 10.1038/cdd.2013.96


      Chronic inflammation and excessive protease activity have a major role in the persistence of non-healing wounds. Granzyme B (GzmB) is a serine protease expressed during chronic inflammation that, in conjunction with perforin, has a well-established role in initiating apoptotic cell death. GzmB is also capable of acting extracellularly, independent of perforin and can degrade several extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins that are critical during wound healing. We used apolipoprotein E (ApoE) knockout (AKO) mice as a novel model of chronic inflammation and impaired wound healing to investigate the role of GzmB in chronic wounds. Wild-type and AKO mice were grown to 7 weeks (young) or 37 weeks (old) of age on a regular chow or high-fat diet (HFD), given a 1-cm diameter full thickness wound on their mid dorsum and allowed to heal for 16 days. Old AKO mice fed a HFD exhibited reduced wound closure, delayed contraction, chronic inflammation and altered ECM remodeling. Conversely, GzmB/ApoE double knockout mice displayed improved wound closure and contraction rates. In addition, murine GzmB was found to degrade both fibronectin and vitronectin derived from healthy mouse granulation tissue. In addition, GzmB-mediated degradation of fibronectin generated a fragment similar in size to that observed in non-healing mouse wounds. These results provide the first direct evidence that GzmB contributes to chronic wound healing in part through degradation of ECM.


    •       Serpina3n attenuates granzyme B-mediated decorin cleavage and rupture in a murine model of aortic aneurysm.

                 Ang LS, Boivin WA, Williams SJ, Zhao H, Abraham T, Carmine-Simmen K, McManus BM, Bleackley RC, Granville DJ.

                 Cell Death Dis. (2011) 2:e209. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2011.88.2


      Granzyme B (GZMB) is a proapoptotic serine protease that is released by cytotoxic lymphocytes. However, GZMB can also be produced by other cell types and is capable of cleaving extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. GZMB contributes to abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) through an extracellular, perforin-independent mechanism involving ECM cleavage. The murine serine protease inhibitor, Serpina3n (SA3N), is an extracellular inhibitor of GZMB. In the present study, administration of SA3N was assessed using a mouse Angiotensin II-induced AAA model. Mice were injected with SA3N (0-120 μg/kg) before pump implantation.


      A significant dose-dependent reduction in the frequency of aortic rupture and death was observed in mice that received SA3N treatment compared with controls. Reduced degradation of the proteoglycan decorin was observed while collagen density was increased in the aortas of mice receiving SA3N treatment compared with controls. In vitro studies confirmed that decorin, which regulates collagen spacing and fibrillogenesis, is cleaved by GZMB and that its cleavage can be prevented by SA3N. In conclusion, SA3N inhibits GZMB-mediated decorin degradation leading to enhanced collagen remodelling and reinforcement of the adventitia, thereby reducing the overall rate of rupture and death in a mouse model of AAA.

    •       Granzyme B cleaves decorin, biglycan and soluble betaglycan, releasing active transforming growth factor-β1.

                Boivin WA, Shackleford M, Vanden Hoek A, Zhao H, Hackett TL, Knight DA, Granville DJ.

                PLoS One. (2012) 7(3):e33163.


      Granzyme B (GrB) is a pro-apoptotic serine protease that contributes to immune-mediated target cell apoptosis. However, during inflammation, GrB accumulates in the extracellular space, retains its activity, and is capable of cleaving extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Recent studies have implicated a pathogenic extracellular role for GrB in cardiovascular disease, yet the pathophysiological consequences of extracellular GrB activity remain largely unknown. The objective of this study was to identify proteoglycan (PG) substrates of GrB and examine the ability of GrB to release PG-sequestered TGF-β1 into the extracellular milieu.




      Three extracellular GrB PG substrates were identified; decorin, biglycan and betaglycan. As all of these PGs sequester active TGF-β1, cytokine release assays were conducted to establish if GrB-mediated PG cleavage induced TGF-β1 release. Our data confirmed that GrB liberated TGF-β1 from all three substrates as well as from endogenous ECM and this process was inhibited by the GrB inhibitor 3,4-dichloroisocoumarin. The released TGF-β1 retained its activity as indicated by the induction of SMAD-3 phosphorylation in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells.




      In addition to contributing to ECM degradation and the loss of tissue structural integrity in vivo, increased extracellular GrB activity is also capable of inducing the release of active TGF-β1 from PGs.

    •       Granzyme B contributes to extracellular matrix remodeling and skin aging in apolipoprotein E knockout mice.

                Hiebert PR, Boivin WA, Abraham T, Pazooki S, Zhao H, Granville DJ.

                Exp Gerontol. (2011) 46(6):489-99.


      Apolipoprotein E knockout (apoE-KO) mice have been utilized for decades as a model of atherosclerosis. However, in addition to atherosclerosis, apoE-KO mice develop extensive cutaneous xanthomatosis, accelerated skin aging and frailty when fed a high fat diet. Granzyme B (GrB) is a pro-apoptotic serine protease that has recently been shown to exhibit extracellular proteolytic activity in certain pathologies. In the present study, the role of GrB in skin aging and pathology was assessed using the apoE-KO model of skin aging. Male C57BL/6 wild type and apoE-KO mice were grown for 0, 5, 15 or 30 weeks on either a high fat (21.2% fat, 0.2% cholesterol) or regular chow diet (7% fat). ApoE/GrB double knockout (DKO) mice were also generated and assessed after being fed either diet for 30 weeks. Skin was removed from the mid to lower back and examined for age-related changes such as hair loss, skin thinning and collagen remodeling and disorganization. ApoE-KO mice exhibited signs of frailty, hair graying, hair loss, skin thinning, loss of collagen density and increased skin pathologies featuring collagen remodeling and reduced decorin compared to wild type controls. These phenotypes occurred earlier and were more severe when fed a high fat diet. In addition, we also observed increased GrB expression in proximity to areas of decorin degradation and reduced collagen density in the skin of apoE-KO mice. DKO mice exhibited protection against skin thinning, ECM degradation and loss of dermal collagen density. In summary, our results provide novel insights into the effects of a high fat diet and apoE deficiency on skin aging and pathology and suggest a role for GrB in age-related skin thinning and frailty.

    •       Perforin-independent extracellular granzyme B activity contributes to abdominal aortic aneurysm.

                Chamberlain CM, Ang LS, Boivin WA, Cooper DM, Williams SJ, Zhao H, Hendel A, Folkesson M, Swedenborg J, Allard

                MF, McManus BM, Granville DJ.

                Am J Pathol. (2010) 176(2):1038-49.


      Granzyme B (GZMB) is a serine protease that is abundantly expressed in advanced human atherosclerotic lesions and may contribute to plaque instability. Perforin is a pore-forming protein that facilitates GZMB internalization and the induction of apoptosis. Recently a perforin-independent, extracellular role for GZMB has been proposed. In the current study, the role of GZMB in abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) was assessed. Apolipoprotein E (APOE)−/− × GZMB−/− and APOE−/− × perforin−/− double knockout (GDKO, PDKO) mice were generated to test whether GZMB exerted a causative role in aneurysm formation. To induce aneurysm, mice were given angiotensin II (1000 ng/kg/min) for 28 days. GZMB was found to be abundant in both murine and human AAA specimens. GZMB deficiency was associated with a decrease in AAA and increased survival compared with APOE-KO and PDKO mice. Although AAA rupture was observed frequently in APOE-KO (46.7%; n = 15) and PDKO (43.3%; n = 16) mice, rupture was rarely observed in GDKO (7.1%; n = 14) mice. APOE-KO mice exhibited reduced fibrillin-1 staining compared with GDKO mice, whereas in vitro protease assays demonstrated that fibrillin-1 is a substrate of GZMB. As perforin deficiency did not affect the outcome, our results suggest that GZMB contributes to AAA pathogenesis via a perforin-independent mechanism involving extracellular matrix degradation and subsequent loss of vessel wall integrity.

    •       Proteinase inhibitor 9 is reduced in human atherosclerotic lesion development.

                Hendel A, Cooper D, Abraham T, Zhao H, Allard MF, Granville DJ.

                Cardiovasc Pathol. (2012) 21(1):28-38.


      Granzyme B, a proapoptotic serine protease, is abundant in advanced, unstable atherosclerotic plaques, and it is suggested to contribute to plaque instability by inducing vascular smooth muscle cells apoptosis and by degrading plaque extracellular matrix. Proteinase inhibitor 9, the only known endogenous inhibitor of granzyme B in humans, confers protection against granzyme-B-induced apoptosis. However, the role of proteinase inhibitor 9 in atherosclerotic lesion development has yet to be determined. We hypothesized that atherosclerotic lesions have lower proteinase inhibitor 9 expression levels that will increase their susceptibility to granzyme-B-induced apoptosis.




      Serial sections of human coronary arteries exhibiting different stages of lesion development were assessed by immunohistochemistry for proteinase inhibitor 9, α-smooth muscle cells actin, granzyme B, CD8, and active caspase-3. Frozen samples were analyzed by Western blot to evaluate total proteinase inhibitor 9 levels.




      Vascular smooth muscle cells express less proteinase inhibitor 9 as disease severity increases, and a significant difference in proteinase inhibitor 9 expression is observed between medial and intimal smooth muscle cells. High granzyme B levels colocalize with CD8+ cells and foam cells in the shoulder region and necrotic core area of advanced lesions. In advanced lesions, increased expression of activated caspase-3 in intimal SMC was associated with reduced proteinase inhibitor 9 expression in the presence of granzyme B.




      Reduced proteinase inhibitor 9 expression in human vascular smooth muscle cells is associated with atherosclerotic disease progression and is inversely related to the extent of apoptosis within the intima. Reduced proteinase inhibitor 9 expression may contribute to increased smooth muscle cell susceptibility to granzyme-B-induced apoptosis within the plaque.

    •       Granzyme B induces endothelial cell apoptosis and contributes to the development of transplant vascular disease.

                Choy JC, Cruz RP, Kerjner A, Geisbrecht J, Sawchuk T, Fraser SA, Hudig D, Bleackley RC, Jirik FR,

                McManus BM, Granville DJ.

                Am J Transplant. (2005) 5(3):494-9


      Endothelial cell death induced by cytotoxic T cells is a key initiating event in the development of transplant vascular disease (TVD), the leading cause of late solid organ transplant failure. We studied the role of the granzyme B (GrB) pathwaye, which is one of the main mechanisms by which T cells induce apoptosis of allogeneic targets, in the pathogenesis of TVD. Granzyme B, in combination with perforin (pfn), induced apoptosis of cultured endothelial cells. In hearts transplanted into GrB knockout (GrB-KO) mice, there was a similar level of vasculitis as compared to WT mice, indicating that GrB does not affect immune infiltration into allograft arteries. However, there was a significant reduction in luminal narrowing of allograft arteries from GrB-KO mice as compared to WT recipients. These results indicate that GrB plays a role in endothelial cell death in allograft arteries and in the resultant development of TVD.

    •       Granzyme B induces smooth muscle cell apoptosis in the absence of perforin: involvement of extracellular matrix


                Choy JC, Hung VH, Hunter AL, Cheung PK, Motyka B, Goping IS, Sawchuk T, Bleackley RC, Podor TJ,

                McManus BM, Granville DJ.

                Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. (2004) 24(12):2245-50.


      T cell-induced cytotoxicity, of which granzyme B is a key mediator, is believed to contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory vascular diseases. In this report, we investigate the mechanism of granzyme B-induced smooth muscle cell (SMC) death.




      The addition of purified granzyme B alone to cultured SMCs caused a significant reduction in cell viability. Chromatin condensation, phosphatidylserine externalization, and membrane blebbing were observed, indicating that the mechanism of granzyme B-induced SMC death was through apoptosis. Activated splenocytes from perforin-knockout mice induced SMC death through a granzyme B-mediated pathway. Inhibition of the proteolytic activities of caspases and granzyme B prevented granzyme B-induced SMC death, whereas attenuation of granzyme B internalization with mannose-6-phosphate (M6P) did not. Further, granzyme B induced the cleavage of several SMC extracellular proteins, including fibronectin, and reduced focal adhesion kinase phosphorylation.




      These results indicate that granzyme B can induce apoptosis of SMCs in the absence of perforin by cleaving extracellular proteins, such as fibronectin.

    •       Perforin mediates endothelial cell death and resultant transplant vascular disease in cardiac allografts.

                Choy JC, Kerjner A, Wong BW, McManus BM, Granville DJ.

                Am J Pathol. (2004) 165(1):127-33.


      T cell-induced endothelial injury is an important event in the development of transplant vascular disease (TVD), the leading expression of chronic rejection of vascularized organ transplants. However, the precise contribution of perforin to vascular damage in allografts and resultant TVD has not been addressed in vivo. Minor histocompatability antigen mismatched mouse heterotopic cardiac transplants were performed from 129J donors into C57Bl/6 (wild-type (WT)) or perforin knockout (PKO) recipients. Perforin was abundant in immune infiltrates in the myocardium and vasculature of transplanted hearts in WT mice. Allograft coronary arteries in both WT and PKO mice had considerable vasculitis. There was also marked endothelial disruption, as well as TUNEL-positivity in the endothelial region, in coronary arteries of hearts transplanted into WT mice that was not evident in PKO recipients (P = 0.05). At 30 days post-transplantation, intimal thickening was assessed on elastic Van Gieson-stained ventricular sections. There was an average of 54.2 +/- 6.7% luminal narrowing of coronary arteries in allografts from WT mice as compared to 13.4 +/- 5.1% luminal narrowing in PKO counterparts (P < 0.00002). In summary, perforin plays a primary role in endothelial damage and the resultant onset and progression of TVD.

    •       Granzyme B in atherosclerosis and transplant vascular disease: association with cell death and atherosclerotic disease


                Choy JC, McDonald PC, Suarez AC, Hung VH, Wilson JE, McManus BM, Granville DJ.

                Mod Pathol. (2003)16(5):460-70.


      Apoptosis of intimal cells is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and transplant vascular disease (TVD). Since the activated immune response may be a key regulator of apoptosis in these lesions, we used immunohistochemistry to characterize the presence and localization of granzyme B, a major mediator of the cytotoxic immune response, in advanced atherosclerosis and TVD. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded transverse sections from human left anterior descending coronary arteries were cut serially and stained with antibodies specific for granzyme B, smooth muscle alpha-actin, CD68, and CD3. The amount of granzyme B staining was semi-quantitated on a 0-5+/5+ scale. Also, TUNEL staining and in situ hybridization was performed to visualize cells undergoing cellular damage suggestive of apoptosis, and to localize granzyme B mRNA, respectively. Granzyme B localization was similar in both diseases. This protease was absent in arteries with mild atherosclerosis, but was abundant in the intima and media of vessels with advanced atherosclerosis and TVD. Within the intima, granzyme B localized to TUNEL-positive foam cells surrounding lipid-rich atheromas. Staining of serial sections with granzyme B and either smooth muscle alpha-actin, anti-CD68, or anti-CD3 showed that granzyme B localized to smooth muscle cells, macrophages, and T-cells. Further, in situ hybridization for granzyme B mRNA in TVD cases localized its expression to infiltrating leukocytes and not foam cells. In conclusion, the presence of granzyme B in advanced atherosclerotic lesions and TVD is associated with increasing disease severity and cell death. These observations suggest that granzyme B-mediated apoptosis may contribute to the pathogenesis of these diseases.





    September 17 - 19                  BioPharm America, Boston, Massachusetts                                                      Alistair Duncan


    July 10 - 11                             Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association's (WBBA)                    viDA Leadership

                                                         Life Science Innovation Northwest






    September 5                           Vancouver Island Corporate Presentation                                                          Alistair Duncan


    October 3 - 5                           Banff Venture Forum, Banff, Alberta                                                                   Alistair Duncan


    October 27 - 31                       Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, Toronto, Ontario                                       David Granville


    November 11 - 14                   Society for Matrix Biology Meeting, San Diego, California                                  David Granville


    January 9                                Biotech Showcase 2013, San Francisco, CA                                                      Alistair Duncan