The tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) is a widely used diagnostic antigen for tuberculosis. It consists of more than 100 denatured proteins in a culture filtrate of a heated culture of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In two-dimensional electrophoretic analysis of PPDs from M. tuberculosis and M. bovis BCG, most proteins were diffusely separated and could not be seen as spots because of denaturation, whereas a few proteins showed relatively clear spots, indicating heat resistance. Two such proteins corresponded to ribosomal proteins L7 and L12. The mixture of these proteins L7/L2 induced a strong delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction. Another protein showing a clear spot was a GroES analogue, but this did not induce delayed-type hypersensitivity. There were a few other unidentified proteins. It is well known that L7 and L12 are encoded by the same gene and that they differ from each other only by an acetylic posttranslational modification that occurs at the N-terminus of L12 converting it to L7 in Escherichia coli. L12, but not L7, was found in two-dimensional electrophoresis of BCG ribosomes, although we found two proteins corresponding to L7 and L12 in PPDs and a native culture filtrate of BCG. We compared the delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction elicited by L7/L12 derived from a culture filtrate of BCG and L12 derived from BCG ribosomes. L7/L12 from the culture filtrate could induce delayed-type hypersensitivity, but L12 from ribosomes could not, indicating that L7 was attributable to the induction of delayed-type hypersensitivity. The activity of L7/L12 was heat resistant. Neither glycosylation nor phosphorylation of L7/L12 from a culture filtrate could be detected. The acetylation at N-terminal of L12 was essential for the delayed- type hypersensitivity activity.
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