Accumulating evidence indicates that latency-associated Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-specific antigens from the dormancy survival regulator regulon (DosR) may be promising novel vaccine target antigens for the development of an improved tuberculosis vaccine. After transcriptional profiling of DosR-related genes in the hyper-virulent Beijing Mtb strain K and the reference Mtb strain H37Rv, we selected Rv3131, a hypothetical nitroreductase, as a vaccine antigen and evaluated its vaccine efficacy against Mtb K. Mtb K exhibited stable and constitutive up-regulation of rv3131 relative to Mtb H37Rv under three different growth conditions (at least 2-fold induction) including exponential growth in normal culture conditions, hypoxia, and inside macrophages. Mice immunised with Rv3131 formulated in GLA-SE, a well-defined TLR4 adjuvant, displayed enhanced Rv3131-specific IFN-γ and serum IgG2c responses along with effector/memory T cell expansion and remarkable generation of Rv3131-specific multifunctional CD4 + T cells co-producing TNF-α, IFN-γ and IL-2 in both spleen and lung. Following challenge with Mtb K, the Rv3131/GLA-SE-immunised group exhibited a significant reduction in bacterial number and less extensive lung inflammation accompanied by the obvious persistence of Rv3131-specific multifunctional CD4 + T cells. These results suggest that Rv3131 could be an excellent candidate for potential use in a multi-antigenic Mtb subunit vaccine, especially against Mtb Beijing strains.
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