Natural killer (NK) cell–mediated killing involves the membrane fusion of preformed lytic granules. While the roles of actin and microtubules are well accepted during this process, the function of septins, another cytoskeletal component that associates with actin and microtubules, has not been investigated. Here we show that genetic depletion or pharmacologic stabilization of the septin cytoskeleton significantly inhibited NK cell cytotoxicity. Although the stabilization of septin filaments impaired conjugate formation, depletion of septin proteins had no impact on conjugate formation, lytic granule convergence, or MTOC polarization to the cytotoxic synapse (CS). Interestingly, septins copurify and accumulate near the polarized lytic granules at the CS, where they regulate lytic granule release. Mechanistically, we find that septin 7 interacts with the SNARE protein syntaxin 11 and facilitates its interaction with syntaxin binding protein 2 to promote lytic granule fusion. Altogether, our data identify a critical role for septins in regulating the release of lytic granule contents during NK cell–mediated killing.

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