The PE/PPE multigene family codes for approximately 10% of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteome and is encoded by 176 open reading frames. These proteins possess, and have been named after, the conserved proline-glutamate (PE) or proline-proline-glutamate (PPE) motifs at their N-terminus. Their genes have a conserved structure and repeat motifs that could be a potential source of antigenic variation in M. tuberculosis. PE/PPE genes are scattered throughout the genome and PE/PPE pairs are usually encoded in bicistronic operons although this is not universally so. This gene family has evolved by specific gene duplication events. PE/PPE proteins are either secreted or localized to the cell surface. Several are thought to be virulence factors, which participate in evasion of the host immune response. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the gene family in order to better understand its biological function.
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