Cytolytic T cells use two mechanisms to kill virally infected cells, tumor cells, or other potentially autoreactive T cells in short-term in vitro assays. The perforin/granule exocytosis mechanism uses preformed cytolytic granules that are delivered to the target cell to induce apoptosis and eventual lysis. FasL/Fas (CD95 ligand/CD95)–mediated cytolysis requires de novo protein synthesis of FasL by the CTL and the presence of the death receptor Fas on the target cell to induce apoptosis. Using a CD8+ CTL clone that kills via both the perforin/granule exocytosis and FasL/Fas mechanisms, and a clone that kills via the FasL/Fas mechanism only, we have examined the requirement of intra- and extracellular Ca2+ in TCR-triggered cytolytic effector function. These two clones, a panel of Ca2+ antagonists, and agonists were used to determine that a large biphasic increase in intracellular calcium concentration, characterized by release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores followed by a sustained influx of extracellular Ca2+, is required for perforin/granule exocytosis. Only the sustained influx of extracellular Ca2+ is required for FasL induction and killing. Thapsigargin, at low concentrations, induces this small but sustained increase in [Ca2+]i and selectively induces FasL/Fas-mediated cytolysis but not granule exocytosis. These results further define the role of Ca2+ in perforin and FasL/Fas killing and demonstrate that differential Ca2+ signaling can modulate T cell effector functions.
Esser, M.T., D.M. Haverstick, C.L. Fuller, C.A. Gullo, and V.L. Braciale. 1998. Ca2+ signaling modulates cytolytic T lymphocyte effector functions. J. Exp. Med., 187:1057-1067.