An antigen of Mycobacterium tuberculosis with an m.w. of 38,000 has been isolated by affinity chromatography using a monoclonal antibody. This antibody bound only to an antigen found in M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis BCG. The specificity of the antigen was tested in a vertical study by immunodetection on western blots reacted with hyperimmune sera against M. tuberculosis, M. bovis, and 10 other Mycobacterium species. The antigen was detected only by antisera to M. tuberculosis and M. bovis. Specificity in cell-mediated immunity was tested by skin tests in guinea pigs sensitized with M. tuberculosis, Mycobacterium intracellulare, and Mycobacterium kansasii and by lymphocyte proliferation tests. The 38-kDa antigen induced positive skin test reactions regardless of the Mycobacterium species used to sensitize the animal. The ability of the 38-kDa antigen to sensitize for cell-mediated immunity was tested by injecting mice with the 38-kDa antigen and challenging their lymphocytes in vitro with various mycobacterial antigens. Lymphocyte proliferation was observed in the presence of 38-kDa antigen, M. tuberculosis sonicate antigen, and tuberculin purified protein derivative and to M. kansasii and M. intracellulare. The 38-kDa antigen may contain a specific epitope detected by serology, but also contains epitopes that are cross-reactive for cellular immunity.

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