Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) eliminate infected and neoplastic cells through directed release of cytotoxic granule contents. Although multiple SNARE proteins have been implicated in cytotoxic granule exocytosis, the role of vesicular SNARE proteins, i.e., vesicle-associated membrane proteins (VAMPs), remains enigmatic. VAMP8 was posited to represent the cytotoxic granule vesicular SNARE protein mediating exocytosis in mice. In primary human CTLs, however, VAMP8 colocalized with Rab11a-positive recycling endosomes. Upon stimulation, these endosomes rapidly trafficked to and fused with the plasma membrane, preceding fusion of cytotoxic granules. Knockdown of VAMP8 blocked both recycling endosome and cytotoxic granule fusion at immune synapses, without affecting activating signaling. Mechanistically, VAMP8-dependent recycling endosomes deposited syntaxin-11 at immune synapses, facilitating assembly of plasma membrane SNARE complexes for cytotoxic granule fusion. Hence, cytotoxic granule exocytosis is a sequential, multivesicle fusion process requiring VAMP8-mediated recycling endosome fusion before cytotoxic granule fusion. Our findings imply that secretory granule exocytosis pathways in other cell types may also be more complex than previously appreciated.
2015. Vol. 210, no 1