India already has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the countries with the highest incidence of tuberculosis (TB). The conventional control measures have had little impact on the relentless march of the TB epidemic. Potential solutions to this problem include the development of new drugs and an effective TB vaccine. In this perspective, identification of the mycobacterial components that have important role(s) in the establishment of the infection assumes crucial importance. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is an intracellular pathogen and it resides inside the macrophage, which is considered to be the most important component of the immune system. M. tuberculosis possesses two highly polymorphic sets of genes called the PE and PPE families. These unique families of proteins account for about 10% of the mycobacterial genome and have drawn considerable interest from different schools of M. tuberculosis researchers across the globe. In this review, we discuss the importance of these proteins in the regulation of dendritic cell and macrophage immune-effector functions, as well as the relevance of these proteins in the clinical manifestation of TB. This information may be helpful to better understand the immunological importance of PE/PPE proteins and their roles in mycobacterial virulence.
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