MTC28, a novel 28-kilodalton proline-rich secreted antigen specific for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.
Proteins that are actively secreted by Mycobacterium tuberculosis serve as major targets of immune responses in the infected host. To identify and purify novel proteins in the filtrates of M. tuberculosis cultures, a bacteriophage lambda library of M. tuberculosis H37Rv DNA was immunoscreened by using an anti-culture filtrate rabbit antiserum. Of 20 positive clones isolated, 6 were analyzed and found to express the genes for two known components of the early culture filtrate, the secreted 45/47-kDa antigen complex and the KatG protein, and two novel genes. Here we report the molecular cloning and nucleotide sequence of one of the new genes encoding a culture filtrate protein of 310 amino acid (aa) residues. We called this gene mtc28. The deduced polypeptide sequence contained an NH2-terminal, highly hydrophobic 32-aa region having properties of a secretion signal peptide. The putative 278-aa mature MTC28 protein was characterized at its NH2 and COOH termini by a high content of proline and alanine residues organized in an (AP)n motif. Thus, MTC28 is a new member of a group of proline-rich antigens found in M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. As shown by DNA hybridization experiments, the mtc28 gene was present only in species of the M. tuberculosis complex. Purified recombinant MTC28 antigen evoked strong delayed-type hypersensitivity and antibody responses in guinea pigs immunized with Mycobacterium bovis BCG, but not in guinea pigs immunized with Mycobacterium avium. The strong immunological activity of MTC28 and the absence of B- and T-cell epitopes cross-reactive with a common environmental mycobacterial species, such as M. avium, make this novel antigen an attractive reagent for immunodiagnosis of tuberculosis.
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