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Infect Immun. 1996 Jan;64(1):16-22.

Evidence for occurrence of the ESAT-6 protein in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and virulent Mycobacterium bovis and for its absence in Mycobacterium bovis BCG.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology and Rheumatology, University of Oslo, Norway.


ESAT-6 is a secreted protein present in the short-term culture filtrate of Mycobacterium tuberculosis after growth on a synthetic Sauton medium. ESAT-6 has recently been demonstrated to induce strong T-cell responses in a mouse model of memory immunity after infection with M. tuberculosis. In Western blotting (immunoblotting), the monoclonal antibody HYB76-8, reacting with ESAT-6, gave a 6-kDa region was observed in filtrates from four of eight substrains of M. bovis BCG that produced high levels of MPB64, while no band occurred in the 6-kDa region with any of these BCG substrains. Southern blotting and PCR experiments with genomic mycobacterial DNA showed the presence of the esat-6 gene in reference strains and clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis as well as in virulent M. bovis. The esat-6 gene could not be demonstrated in any of the eight substrains of M. bovis BCG tested by these techniques. Two gene deletions that distinguish M. bovis BCG from virulent M. bovis have thus now been demonstrated. Deletion of mpb64 affects four of the eight substrains tested; deletion of esat-6 affects all of them. The reaction of HYB76-8 AT 26 kDa with four of the BCG substrains was demonstrated to result from cross-reactivity with MPB64. HYB76-8 was also shown to cross-react with the A, B, and C components of the antigen 85 complex and MPT51.

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