Eradication of Mycobacterium bovis relies on accurate detection of infected animals, including potential domestic and wildlife reservoirs. Available diagnostic tests lack the sensitivity and specificity necessary for accurate detection, particularly in infected wildlife populations. Recently, an in vitro diagnostic test for cattle which measures plasma interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) levels in blood following in vitro incubation with M. bovis purified protein derivative has been enveloped. This test appears to have increased sensitivity over traditional testing. Unfortunately, it does not detect IFN-γ from Cervidae. To begin to address this problem, the IFN-γ gene from elk (Cervus elaphus) was cloned, sequenced, expressed, and characterized. cDNA was cloned from mitogen stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The predicted amino acid (aa) sequence was compared to known sequences from cattle, sheep, goats, red deer (Cervus elaphus), humans, and mice. Biological activity of the recombinant elk IFN-γ (rElkIFN-γ) was confirmed in a vesicular stomatitis virus cytopathic effect reduction assay. Production of monoclonal antibodies to IFN-γ epitopes conserved between ruminant species could provide an important tool for the development of reliable, practical diagnostic assays for detection of a delayed type hypersensitivity response to a variety of persistent infectious agents in ruminants, including M. bovis and Brucella abortus. Moreover, development of these reagents will aid investigators in studies to explore immunological responses of elk that are associated with resistance to infectious diseases.
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