Identification of vaccine target antigens (Ags) that induce Ag-specific Th1 immunity is the first step toward the development of a tuberculosis vaccine. Here, we evaluated the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) protein Rv3628, a soluble inorganic pyrophosphatase, as a vaccine target and characterized the molecular details of its interaction with dendritic cells (DCs). Rv3628 activated DCs, increasing their expression of cell surface molecules and augmenting their production of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-12p70. Rv3628 mediated these effects by binding to TLR2 and activating downstream MyD88-, MAPK- and NF-κB-dependent signaling pathways. Rv3628-stimulated DCs induced the expansion of OVA-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, which secreted IFN-γ and IL-2. Rv3628-specific effector/memory T cells expanded to a similar extent as those stimulated with ESAT-6 Ag in samples of lung and spleen cells collected from Mtb-infected mice. Finally, an Rv3628 subunit vaccine adjuvanted with dimethyldioctadecylammonium liposomes containing monophosphoryl lipid-A caused significant reductions in bacterial counts and lung inflammation after challenge with the hyper-virulent Mtb K strain. Importantly, protective efficacy was correlated with the generation of Rv3628-specific CD4+ T cells co-producing IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-2 and exhibiting an elevated IFN-γ recall response. Thus, Rv3628 polarizes DCs toward a Th1 phenotype and promotes protective immunity against Mtb infection.
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