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J Exp Med. 2000 Feb 7;191(3):551-60.

Expression cloning of an immunodominant family of Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens using human CD4(+) T cells.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Corixa Corporation, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA.


Development of a subunit vaccine for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is likely to be dependent on the identification of T cell antigens that induce strong proliferation and interferon gamma production from healthy purified protein derivative (PPD)(+) donors. We have developed a sensitive and rapid technique for screening an Mtb genomic library expressed in Escherichia coli using Mtb-specific CD4(+) T cells. Using this technique, we identified a family of highly related Mtb antigens. The gene of one family member encodes a 9.9-kD antigen, termed Mtb9.9A. Recombinant Mtb9.9A protein, expressed and purified from E. coli, elicited strong T cell proliferation and IFN-gamma production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from PPD(+) but not PPD(-) individuals. Southern blot analysis and examination of the Mtb genome sequence revealed a family of highly related genes. A T cell line from a PPD(+) donor that failed to react with recombinant Mtb9.9A recognized one of the other family members, Mtb9.9C. Synthetic peptides were used to map the T cell epitope recognized by this line, and revealed a single amino acid substitution in this region when compared with Mtb9.9A. The direct identification of antigens using T cells from immune donors will undoubtedly be critical for the development of vaccines to several intracellular pathogens.

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