Cellular, Humoral, and Gamma Interferon Responses to Mycobacterium leprae and BCG Antigens in Healthy Individuals Exposed to Leprosy


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16 Scopus citations


Protective immunity against mycobacteria is dependent on antigen‐specific T cells. The antibodies induced upon immunization with mycobacteria have no apparent role in host protection. Serological techniques have detected some antigens that are also recognized by human T cells but may fail to recognize others. Potentially, there may he differences in the epitopes seen by the T and B cell anti‐mycobacterial antigen repertoires‐ We have screened the different components of sonicated BCG or Mycobacterium leprae that were separated according to their molecular weight (MW) by SDS‐PAGEI and then electroblotted on nitrocellulose paper. The blots were cut into squares and tested directly in a T cell proliferation assay. Our results indicate that peripheral T cells of healthy leprosy patient contacts respond preferentially to the tower MW (<70,000) and not the higher MW fractions of M. leprae and BCG, in contrast to the humoral response of these same individuals. The most important fractions in inducing a lymphoproliferative response were in the regions of 11–16kDa of BCG and M. leprae and to the 22–26kDa region of M. leprae. These fractions appeared to represent molecular weight regions that were in some instances clearly distinct from previously defined antigens. It was further shown that lymphoproliferation in response to mycobacterial fractions correlated with the production of gamma interferon, a lymphokine required for macrophage activation and elimination of mycobacteria. These studies allow the direct assessment of antigens involved in protective T cell‐mediated immunity, and should be helpful in selecting relevant antigens for skin testing and immunization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-525
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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