R C Bleackley

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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Publications (183)1093.01 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Cardiac fibrosis is observed across diverse etiologies of heart failure. Granzyme B (GzmB) is a serine protease involved in cell-mediated cytotoxicity in conjunction with the pore-forming protein, perforin. Recent evidence suggests that GzmB also contributes to matrix remodeling and fibrosis through an extracellular, perforin-independent process. However, the role of GzmB in the onset and progression of cardiac fibrosis remains elusive. The present study investigated the role of GzmB in the pathogenesis of cardiac fibrosis. GzmB was elevated in fibrotic human hearts and in angiotensin II-induced murine cardiac fibrosis. Genetic deficiency of GzmB reduced angiotensin II-induced cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis, independently of perforin. GzmB deficiency also reduced microhemorrhage, inflammation, and fibroblast accumulation in vivo. In vitro, GzmB cleaved the endothelial junction protein, VE-cadherin, resulting in the disruption of endothelial barrier function. Together, these results suggest a perforin-independent, extracellular role for GzmB in the pathogenesis of cardiac fibrosis.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · American Journal Of Pathology
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It is widely accepted that inflammatory cells play major roles in the pathogenesis of MS, possibly through the use of serine protease granzyme B (GrB) secreted from the granules of cytotoxic T cells. We have previously identified GrB as a mediator of axonal injury and neuronal death. In this study, our goal was to evaluate the effect of GrB inhibition in the human system in vitro, and in vivo in EAE using the newly isolated GrB-inhibitor serpina3n. We used a well-established in vitro model of neuroinflammation characterized by a co-culture system between human fetal neurons and lymphocytes. In vivo, we induced EAE in 10- to 12-week-old female C57/BL6 mice and treated them intravenously with serpina3n. In the in vitro co-culture system, pre-treatment of lymphocytes with serpina3n prevented neuronal killing and cleavage of the cytoskeletal protein alpha-tubulin, a known substrate for GrB. Moreover, in EAE, 50 μg serpina3n substantially reduced the severity of the disease. This dose was administered intravenously twice at days 7 and 20 post EAE induction. serpina3n treatment reduced axonal and neuronal injury compared to the vehicle-treated control group and maintained the integrity of myelin. Interestingly, serpina3n treatment did not seem to reduce the infiltration of immune cells (CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells) into the CNS. Our data suggest further studies on serpina3n as a potentially novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of inflammatory-mediated neurodegenerative diseases such as MS.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Neuroinflammation
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    ABSTRACT: Amyloid β (Aβ) peptides originating from amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the endosomal-lysosomal compartments play a critical role in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common type of senile dementia affecting the elderly. Since insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) receptors facilitate delivery of nascent lysosomal enzymes from the trans-Golgi network to endosomes, we evaluated their role in APP metabolism and cell viability using mouse fibroblast MS cells deficient in the murine IGF-II receptor and corresponding MS9II cells overexpressing the human IGF-II receptors. Our results show that IGF-II receptor overexpression increases the protein levels of APP. This is accompanied by an increase of β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 levels and increase of β- and γ-secretase enzyme activities, leading to enhanced Aβ production. At the cellular level, IGF-II receptor overexpression causes localization of APP in perinuclear tubular structures, an increase of lipid-raft components and increased lipid-raft partitioning of APP. Finally, MS9II cells are more susceptible to staurosporine-induced cytotoxicity, which can be attenuated by β-secretase inhibitor. Together, these results highlight the potential contribution of IGF-II receptor to AD pathology not only by regulating expression/processing of APP, but also by its role in cellular vulnerability. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Molecular and Cellular Biology
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    ABSTRACT: The intracellular roles of Granzyme B (GrB) in immune-mediated cell killing have been extensively studied. Recent data also implicate GrB in extracellular pathways of inflammation, cytokine activation and autoimmunity. Targeting (GrB) provides a new pharmaceutical agent for various inflammatory disorders. Serpina3n is a mouse extracellular inhibitor of GrB. There is no apparent equivalent in humans. In this study, we used a novel applied genetics approach to engineer a new extracellular GrB serpin. A chimeric protein was generated in which the reactive center loop (RCL) of human extracellular antichymotrypsin (ACT) was replaced with that of serpina3n. This serpin contained 27 amino acid residues from the serpina3n RCL and the remaining 395 residues from human ACT. The insertion converted human ACT into a GrB-inhibitory serpin. Several critical residues were identified by scanning mutagenesis on the chimera and serpina3n. Targeted mutagenesis was conducted on wild-type human ACT by specifically substituting those critical residues, creating a novel inhibitor that contains 99.3% human ACT sequence with only three point mutations. Wild-type human ACT had a kass for GrB of 2.26 × 10(4) M(-1) s(-1), whereas the novel inhibitor binds GrB with a kass of 7.65 × 10(5) M(-1) s(-1). This new drug candidate can be developed in animal models and further tested in clinical trials to help us understand the role of GrB in numerous disorders. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Protein Engineering Design and Selection
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    R Chris Bleackley

    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Frontiers in Immunology
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    I Hsu · L G Parkinson · Y Shen · A Toro · T Brown · H Zhao · R C Bleackley · D J Granville
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    ABSTRACT: Chronic, non-healing wounds are a major complication of diabetes and are characterized by chronic inflammation and excessive protease activity. Although once thought to function primarily as a pro-apoptotic serine protease, granzyme B (GzmB) can also accumulate in the extracellular matrix (ECM) during chronic inflammation and cleave ECM proteins that are essential for proper wound healing, including fibronectin. We hypothesized that GzmB contributes to the pathogenesis of impaired diabetic wound healing through excessive ECM degradation. In the present study, the murine serine protease inhibitor, serpina3n (SA3N), was administered to excisional wounds created on the dorsum of genetically induced type-II diabetic mice. Wound closure was monitored and skin wound samples were collected for analyses. Wound closure, including both re-epithelialization and contraction, were significantly increased in SA3N-treated wounds. Histological and immunohistochemical analyses of SA3N-treated wounds revealed a more mature, proliferative granulation tissue phenotype as indicated by increased cell proliferation, vascularization, fibroblast maturation and differentiation, and collagen deposition. Skin homogenates from SA3N-treated wounds also exhibited greater levels of full-length intact fibronectin compared with that of vehicle wounds. In addition, GzmB-induced detachment of mouse embryonic fibroblasts correlated with a rounded and clustered phenotype that was prevented by SA3N. In summary, topical administration of SA3N accelerated wound healing. Our findings suggest that GzmB contributes to the pathogenesis of diabetic wound healing through the proteolytic cleavage of fibronectin that is essential for normal wound closure, and that SA3N promotes granulation tissue maturation and collagen deposition.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Cell Death & Disease

  • No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies demonstrated that autophagy is an important regulator of innate immune response. However, the mechanism by which autophagy regulates natural killer (NK) cell-mediated antitumor immune responses remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that hypoxia impairs breast cancer cell susceptibility to NK-mediated lysis in vitro via the activation of autophagy. This impairment was not related to a defect in target cell recognition by NK cells but to the degradation of NK-derived granzyme B in autophagosomes of hypoxic cells. Inhibition of autophagy by targeting beclin1 (BECN1) restored granzyme B levels in hypoxic cells in vitro and induced tumor regression in vivo by facilitating NK-mediated tumor cell killing. Together, our data highlight autophagy as a mechanism underlying the resistance of hypoxic tumor cells to NK-mediated lysis. The work presented here provides a cutting-edge advance in our understanding of the mechanism by which hypoxia-induced autophagy impairs NK-mediated lysis in vitro and paves the way for the formulation of more effective NK cell-based antitumor therapies.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Catherine L Ewen · Kevin P Kane · R Chris Bleackley
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    ABSTRACT: Natural killer and T cell-mediated cytotoxicity is important for the elimination of viruses and transformed cells. The granule lytic pathway utilizes perforin and granzymes to induce cell death, while receptor-mediated lytic pathways rely on molecules such as FasL. Pro-apoptotic activities of Granzyme B (GrB) and Fas are well-established, and many of their cellular targets have been identified. However, humans express additional related granzymes - GrA, GrM, GrK, and GrH. Neither the cytotoxic potential of GrH, nor the mechanism by which GrH may induce target cell death is currently understood. We proposed that GrH would have pro-apoptotic activity that would be distinct from that of GrB and FasL, which could be relevant when Fas/FasL or GrB activity or death pathways were impaired. Our results, using a purified recombinant form of GrH, revealed that GrH induced cell death via a Bcl-2-sensitive mitochondrial pathway without direct processing of Bid. Additionally, neither the apoptosome nor caspase-3 was essential to the induction of GrH-mediated cell death. However, GrH did directly process DFF45, potentially leading to DNA damage. Our findings support the idea that multiple, non-redundant death pathways may be initiated by cytotoxic cells to counteract various immune evasion strategies.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Molecular Immunology
  • Lisa Ang · Wendy Boivin · Hongyan Zhao · Fanny Chu · R. Chris Bleackley · David Granville

    No preview · Conference Paper · Nov 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Influenza remains the single most important cause of excess disability and mortality during the winter months. In spite of widespread influenza vaccination programs leading to demonstrated cost-savings in the over 65 population, hospitalization and death rates for acute respiratory illnesses continue to rise. As a person ages, increased serum levels of inflammatory cytokines are commonly recorded (TNF-α, IL-1, IL-6). Termed "inflammaging", this has been linked to persistent cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and immune senescence, while increased anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10, TGF-β) are possibly associated with more healthy aging. Paradoxically, a shift with aging toward an anti-inflammatory (IL-10) response and decline in the IFN-γ:IL-10 ratio in influenza-challenged peripheral blood mononuclear cells is associated with a decline in the cytolytic capacity of CD8+ T cells responsible for clearing influenza virus from infected lung tissue. Thus, it is seemingly counter intuitive that the immune phenotype of healthy aging predicts a poor cell-mediated immune response and more serious outcomes of influenza. Herein we postulate a mechanistic link between the accumulation of late-stage, potentially terminally differentiated T cells, many or most of which result from CMV infection, and the immunopathogenesis of influenza infection, mediated by granzyme B in older adults. Further, adjuvanted influenza vaccines that stimulate inflammatory cytokines and suppress the IL-10 response to influenza challenge, would be expected to enhance protection in the 65+ population.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Vaccine
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    ABSTRACT: To remedy the shortage of human donor islets, xenotransplantation of neonatal porcine islets (NPI) provides an attractive alternative source of donor tissue so long as graft rejection can be circumvented. Thus, in this study, we sought to determine whether cotransplantation of NPI with Sertoli cells (SC) combined with a short-course treatment of monoclonal antibody (mAb) could provide long-term islet xenograft survival. NPI alone or NPI cotransplanted with neonatal porcine SC were transplanted into diabetic C57BL/6 mice. These mice were left untreated or were treated with a short course of antileukocyte function associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), anti-CD154, or anti-CD45RB mAb. Blood glucose levels were monitored twice a week to assess graft function. At more than 100 days posttransplantation or on the day of rejection, graft-bearing kidneys were collected for characterization using immunohistochemistry. None of the untreated control mice transplanted with NPI alone (0/5) or NPI cotransplanted with SC (0/8) achieved normoglycemia. However, of the mice receiving NPI alone, 3 of 7 treated with anti-LFA-1 mAb, 2 of 7 treated with anti-CD154 mAb, and 1 of 7 treated with anti-CD45RB mAb achieved long-term graft survival (>100 days). These proportions improved considerably when NPI were cotransplanted with SC, as 15 of 15 mice treated with anti-LFA-1 mAb, 7 of 8 mice treated with anti-CD154 mAb, and 4 of 9 mice treated with anti-CD45RB mAb achieved long-term graft survival. These results show that transient administration of anti-LFA-1 mAb or anti-CD154 mAb is efficacious in prolonging NPI xenograft survival when islets are cotransplanted with SC. Interleukin-4 and Serpina3n may be important mediators of protection observed in this model.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2011 · Transplantation
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    ABSTRACT: Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are the major killer of virus-infected cells. Granzyme B (GrB) from CTLs induces apoptosis in target cells by cleavage and activation of substrates like caspase-3 and Bid. However, while undergoing apoptosis, cells are still capable of producing infectious viruses unless a mechanism exists to specifically inhibit viral production. Using proteomic approaches, we identified a novel GrB target that plays a major role in protein synthesis: eukaryotic initiation factor 4 gamma 3 (eIF4G3). We hypothesized a novel role for GrB in translation of viral proteins by targeting eIF4G3, and showed that GrB cleaves eIF4G3 specifically at the IESD(1408)S sequence. Both GrB and human CTL treatment resulted in degradation of eIF4G3 and reduced rates of translation. When Jurkat cells infected with vaccinia virus were treated with GrB, there was a halt in viral protein synthesis and a decrease in production of infectious new virions. The GrB-induced inhibition of viral translation was independent of the activation of caspases, as inhibition of protein synthesis still occurred with addition of the pan-caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk. This demonstrated for the first time that GrB prevents the production of infectious vaccinia virus by targeting the host translational machinery.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · PLoS Pathogens
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    ABSTRACT: During the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic (pdmH1N1) outbreak, it was found that most individuals lacked antibodies against the new pdmH1N1 virus, and only the elderly showed anti-hemagglutinin (anti-HA) antibodies that were cross-reactive with the new strains. Different studies have demonstrated that prior contact with the virus can confer protection against strains with some degree of dissimilarity; however, this has not been sufficiently explored within the context of a pdmH1N1 virus infection. In this study, we have found that a first infection with the A/Brisbane/59/2007 virus strain confers heterologous protection in ferrets and mice against a subsequent pdmH1N1 (A/Mexico/4108/2009) virus infection through a cross-reactive but non-neutralizing antibody mechanism. Heterologous immunity is abrogated in B cell-deficient mice but maintained in CD8(-/-) and perforin-1(-/-) mice. We identified cross-reactive antibodies from A/Brisbane/59/2007 sera that recognize non-HA epitopes in pdmH1N1 virus. Passive serum transfer showed that cross-reactive sH1N1-induced antibodies conferred protection in naive recipient mice during pdmH1N1 virus challenge. The presence or absence of anti-HA antibodies, therefore, is not the sole indicator of the effectiveness of protective cross-reactive antibody immunity. Measurement of additional antibody repertoires targeting the non-HA antigens of influenza virus should be taken into consideration in assessing protection and immunization strategies. We propose that preexisting cross-protective non-HA antibody immunity may have had an overall protective effect during the 2009 pdmH1N1 outbreak, thereby reducing disease severity in human infections.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · Journal of Virology
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    C L Ewen · K P Kane · R C Bleackley
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    ABSTRACT: Granzymes (Grs) were discovered just over a quarter century ago. They are produced by cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells and are released upon interaction with target cells. Intensive biochemical, genetic, and biological studies have been performed in order to study their roles in immunity and inflammation. This review summarizes research on the family of Grs.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2011 · Cell death and differentiation
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    Full-text · Article · Oct 2011 · Cell Death & Disease
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered an autoimmune disease of the CNS and is characterized by inflammatory cells infiltrating the CNS and inducing demyelination, axonal loss, and neuronal death. Recent evidence strongly suggests that axonal and neuronal degeneration underlie the progression of permanent disability in MS. In this study, we report that human neurons are selectively susceptible to the serine-protease granzyme B (GrB) isolated from cytotoxic T cell granules. In vitro, purified human GrB induced neuronal death to the same extent as the whole activated T cell population. On the contrary, activated T cells isolated from GrB knockout mice failed to induce neuronal injury. We found that following internalization through various parts of neurons, GrB accumulated in the neuronal soma. Within the cell body, GrB diffused out of endosomes possibly through a perforin-independent mechanism and induced subsequent activation of caspases and cleavage of α-tubulin. Inhibition of caspase-3, a well-known substrate for GrB, significantly reduced GrB-mediated neurotoxicity. We demonstrated that treatment of neurons with mannose-6-phosphate prevented GrB entry and inhibited GrB-mediated neuronal death, suggesting mannose-6-phosphate receptor-dependent endocytosis. Together, our data unveil a novel mechanism by which GrB induces selective neuronal injury and suggest potential new targets for the treatment of inflammatory-mediated neurodegeneration in diseases such as MS.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · The Journal of Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2011 · Cell Death & Disease
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    ABSTRACT: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a vascular remodeling disease characterized by enhanced proliferation and suppressed apoptosis of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMC). This apoptosis resistance is characterized by PASMC mitochondrial hyperpolarization [in part, due to decreased pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity], decreased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS), downregulation of Kv1.5, increased [Ca(++)](i), and activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT). Inflammatory cells are present within and around the remodeled arteries and patients with PAH have elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα). We hypothesized that the inflammatory cytokine TNFα inhibits PASMC PDH activity, inducing a PAH phenotype in normal PASMC. We exposed normal human PASMC to recombinant human TNFα and measured PDH activity. In TNFα-treated cells, PDH activity was significantly decreased. Similar to exogenous TNFα, endogenous TNFα secreted from activated human CD8(+) T cells, but not quiescent T cells, caused mitochondrial hyperpolarization, decreased mROS, decreased K(+) current, increased [Ca(++)](i), and activated NFAT in normal human PASMC. A TNFα antibody completely prevented, while recombinant TNFα mimicked the T cell-induced effects. In vivo, the TNFα antagonist etanercept prevented and reversed monocrotaline (MCT)-induced PAH. In a separate model, T cell deficient rats developed less severe MCT-induced PAH compared to their controls. We show that TNFα can inhibit PASMC PDH activity and induce a PAH phenotype. Our work supports the use of anti-inflammatory therapies for PAH.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Journal of Molecular Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: How the pore-forming protein perforin delivers apoptosis-inducing granzymes to the cytosol of target cells is uncertain. Perforin induces a transient Ca2+ flux in the target cell, which triggers a process to repair the damaged cell membrane. As a consequence, both perforin and granzymes are endocytosed into enlarged endosomes called 'gigantosomes'. Here we show that perforin formed pores in the gigantosome membrane, allowing endosomal cargo, including granzymes, to be gradually released. After about 15 min, gigantosomes ruptured, releasing their remaining content. Thus, perforin delivers granzymes by a two-step process that involves first transient pores in the cell membrane that trigger the endocytosis of granzyme and perforin and then pore formation in endosomes to trigger cytosolic release.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · Nature Immunology

Publication Stats

10k Citations
1,093.01 Total Impact Points


  • 1982-2015
    • University of Alberta
      • Department of Biochemistry
      Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 1999
    • University College London
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 1995
    • Duke University Medical Center
      • Department of Pathology
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 1993
    • Dalhousie University
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 1988
    • Stanford University
      • Department of Pathology
      Stanford, California, United States
    • University of California, San Diego
      San Diego, California, United States