Novel immunogenic antigens are continually required for the improvement of diagnostic techniques for Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Some proteins with serodiagnostic value are not expressed under normal culture conditions, but may be induced under specific conditions such as gradual oxygen depletion and low pH, and from inside macrophages. Using a customized amplification library, we previously found that Rv2041c from M. tuberculosis H37Rv was highly expressed in vitro under conditions of low pH and hypoxia. In this study, recombinant (r)Rv2041c was produced in Escherichia coli to examine its role in immune responses. Increased Rv2041c expression in vitro during dormancy and during infection in human macrophages was confirmed by Western blotting and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, respectively. Interestingly, positive antibody responses to rRv2041c were detected only in those patients with active tuberculosis (TB) and in mice infected with M. tuberculosis H37Rv. Finally, Rv2041c was used successfully in the serodiagnosis of active M. tuberculosis infection in Korean patients in conjunction with other M. tuberculosis proteins, including Ag85 complex, 38 kDa, rESAT-6, rHSP-X and rCFP-10. Our Rv2041c-ELISA had comparable diagnostic sensitivity and equivalent specificity to the use of an M. tuberculosis H37Rv cellular extract. In addition, seven of 46 serum samples collected from TB patients (15.28%) showed positive antibody responses to Rv2041c, but not to the other proteins. These results suggest that Rv2041c can be used to increase assay sensitivity alongside well-known antigens for the serodiagnosis of M. tuberculosis infection.
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