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Granzymes are exogenous serine proteases that are released by cytoplasmic granules within cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells. Their purpose is to induce apoptosis within virus-infected cells, thus destroying them.
Cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells release a protein called perforin which attacks the target cells. Perforin creates pores within the cells, through which the granzymes can enter, inducing apoptosis. They do so by cleaving caspases, which in turn activate caspase activated DNAse. This enzyme degrades DNA, thus inducing apoptotic cascades.
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