Identification of Mycobacterium leprae antigens from a cosmid library: Characterization of a 15-kilodalton antigen that is recognized by both the humoral and cellular immune systems in leprosy patients

S. Sela, J. E.R. Thole, T. H.M. Ottenhoff, J. E. Clark-Curtiss

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26 Scopus citations


Screening of the Mycobacterium leprae cosmid library with pooled sera from lepromatous leprosy (LL) patients by a colony immunoblot technique resulted in the identification of about 100 colonies that produced immunologically reactive proteins. Twenty-four of these clones were purified, analyzed, and found to comprise two groups according to the reactivity of the recombinant proteins with LL sera and to the DNA restriction patterns of the recombinant plasmids and cosmids. Proteins specified by clones from group I reacted strongly with LL patients' sera on a Western blot (immunoblot), demonstrating a 15-kDa protein band designated A15. The A15 antigen also reacted with pooled sera from patients with tuberculoid leprosy from the United States and Brazil. Clones from group II did not show any reactive protein band on a Western blot, when reacted with patients' sera. DNAs from cosmids of group II all contain a 10-kb PstI fragment that hybridized to the unique repetitive M. leprae DNA. Sequence analysis of a 1.2-kb fragment containing the entire coding sequence of A15 revealed three open reading frames (ORFs), only one of which (ORF II) contains sufficient genetic information to encode for A15. Part of the A15 gene was found to exist also in a group of λgt11::M. leprae clones previously isolated in our laboratory by immunological screening with LL patients' sera. One of the λgt11 clones (L8) expresses a β-galactosidase fusion protein with 89 amino acids from the C terminus of A15. An important result was that the fusion protein was clearly recognized by T cells from leprosy patients. Interestingly, Mycobacterium tuberculosis-stimulated T cells from M. leprae nonresponder (LL as well as borderline tuberculoid) patients were able to respond to the isolated recombinant M. leprae antigen, indicating that nonresponsiveness to M. leprae antigens can be reversible. The sequence of the M. leprae DNA fused to the β-galactosidase gene of λgt11 clone L8 was identical to that of a λgt11::M. leprae clone isolated recently that expresses an immunologically reactive fusion protein (S. Laal, Y. D. Sharma, H. K. Prasad, A. Murtaza, S. Singh, S. Tangri, R. Misra, and I. Nath, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88:1054-1058, 1991). Besides the complete sequence of the A15 gene, sequencing data of two flanking ORFs are presented. Downstream from ORF II (A15), ORF III has a high degree of similarity to the genes for tomato ATP-dependent proteases that are members of a larger class of highly conserved proteases ubiquitous among prokaryotes and eukaryotes. ORF I, located upstream from ORF II, shares a high degree of similarity to the carboxy terminus of the Escherichia coli lysU gene, which codes for the stress- and heat-shock-inducible lysyl-tRNA synthetase. Sequences homologous to the A15 gene were detected in chromosomal DNA from Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium bovis BCG, and M. tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4117-4124
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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