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Scand J Immunol. 2002 Jul;56(1):43-51.

Purification, biochemical characterization and immunogenicity of SA5K, a secretion antigen of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Dipartimento di Patologia Sperimentale, Biotecnologie Mediche, Infettivologia ed Epidemiologia, University of Pisa, Via S. Zeno 35-39, 56127, Italy.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) secretory proteins are generally considered important antigens for immune protection against tuberculosis (TB). An 8.3-kDa secretory antigen of MTB and Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), called SA5K, was recently identified and cloned in our laboratory. In this report, recombinant SA5K containing a histidine hexamer was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to investigate its biochemical structure and to establish whether it was immunogenic for healthy sensitized and nonsensitized human donors and for patients infected with MTB. The protein nucleotide sequence was shown to be identical in BCG and in MTB. SA5K revealed an abnormal electrophoretic mobility in SDS-PAGE that made it look lighter than it is in Western blotting. While recombinant SA5K was poorly recognized by T lymphocytes from patients with pulmonary TB, it elicited proliferation of CD4+ T lymphocytes in the vast majority of healthy individuals sensitized to mycobacterial antigens by BCG vaccination. At a serum dilution of 1 : 80, antibodies reacting against recombinant SA5K were found in 67% of sera from TB patients and in 73% of sera from healthy subjects. The percentage of positive subjects dropped at higher serum dilutions, but no significant difference in the recognition rate was observed between TB patients and healthy donors and between healthy vaccinated and nonvaccinated subjects. Owing to the high percentage of sera from healthy subjects who recognized SA5K in Western blotting, the antigen seems to exhibit, at least in the present form, a poor specificity for an employment for a serodiagnosis of TB.

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