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Vaccine. 2006 Mar 20;24(13):2333-42. Epub 2005 Dec 12.

Immunogenicity and protection induced by Mycobacterium tuberculosis mce-2 and mce-3 mutants in a Balb/c mouse model of progressive pulmonary tuberculosis.

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Experimental Pathology Section, Department of Pathology, National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiràn, Vasco de Quiroga 15, Tlalpan, Mexico City CP-14000, Mexico.


Mycobacterial proteins coded by the mammalian cell entry (mce) genes allow for cell invasion into the host. The Mycobacterium tuberculosismce-2 and mce-3 mutants have impaired synthesis of mce proteins and are attenuated in BALB/c mice. Intra-tracheal infection of Balb/c mice with either mce mutant induced lower but progressive production of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, as well as larger delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions, than their parental H37Rv strain. When used as a subcutaneous vaccine and, before challenge, both mutants were more attenuated than BCG in Balb/c and immunodeficient nude mice. Cell suspensions from lymph nodes and spleen from mce mutant vaccinated mice stimulated with mycobacterial culture filtrate antigens (CFA) or immunodominant antigens (ESAT-6, Ag85) produced more INF-gamma than BCG-vaccinated animals. Used as subcutaneous vaccines, 60 days before intra-tracheal challenge with the hypervirulent strain of M. tuberculosis (Beijing code 9501000), both mutants induced a higher level of protection than BCG; 72% and 63% of the mice vaccinated with the mce-2 and mce-3 mutants, respectively, survived for 16 weeks after the challenge as compared to 30% of those vaccinated with BCG. Likewise, there was less tissue damage (pneumonia) and lower colony forming units (CFU) in the mice vaccinated with either of the two mutants as compared to the findings in mice vaccinated with BCG. These data suggest that lack of mce-2 and -3 gene expression decreases virulence and increases immunogenicity of live vaccines, favouring their ability to protect against tuberculosis, which was better than the protection conferred by BCG.

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