Proteins secreted by Mycobacterium tuberculosis are targets of host immune responses and as such are investigated for vaccine and immunodiagnostics development. Computer-driven searches of the M. tuberculosis H37Rv genome had previously identified 45 novel secreted proteins. Here, we report the characterization of these antigens in terms of specificity for die M. tuberculosis complex and the ability to induce human immune responses. BLAST homology searches and Southern hybridization identified 10 genes that were either specific for the M. tuberculosis complex or found in only two nontuberculous mycobacterial species of minor medical significance. Selected recombinant proteins were purified from Escherichia coli cells and tested for the ability to elicit antibody responses in tuberculosis patients. Reactivity of the serum panel was 36% with at least one of five novel proteins (Rv0203, Rv0603, Rv1271c, Rv1804c and Rv2253), 56% with the 38 kDa lipoprotein, a M. tuberculosis antigen known to be highly seroreactive, and 68% with a combination of Rv0203, Rv1271c and the 38 kDa antigen. Thus, at least five novel secreted proteins induce antibody responses during active disease; some of these proteins may increase the sensitivity of serological assays based on the 38 kDa antigen.
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