What is a cytotoxic t-cell? What is the function of a cytotoxic t-cell?

1 Answer
Feb 12, 2017

A cytotoxic T cell is a T lymphocyte i.e. a type of white blood cell , that kills cancer cells, cells that are infected , or cells that are damaged in other ways.


Most cytotoxic T cells express T cell receptors , that can recognise a specific antigen. When exposed to infected or dysfunctional somatic cells the cytotoxic T cells release cytotoxins. These trigger caspase cascades which is a series of cysteine proteases that eventually lead to apoptosis.

Another way to induce apoptosis is via cell surface interaction between the cytotoxic T cells and the infected cell.

During hepatitis B virus infection , cytotoxic T cells play an important pathogenic role. By killing infected cells and by producing antiviral cytokinesis , cytotoxic T cells also eliminate the virus.