Using the phoA gene fusion methodology adapted to mycobacteria, several Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA fragments encoding exported proteins were recently identified. In this paper, the molecular cloning, genomic positioning, nucleotide sequence determination and transcriptional start site mapping of a new M. tuberculosis gene, identified by this methodology, are reported. This gene was called erp (for exported repetitive protein) and has a sequence similar to that of the Mycobacterium leprae 28 kDa antigen irg gene M. tuberculosis erp gene contains a putative iron box close to the mapped transcriptional start site. The predicted Erp protein displays a typical N-terminal signal sequence, a hydrophobic domain at the C-terminus and harbours repeated amino acid motifs. These structural features are reminiscent of cell-wall-associated surface proteins from Gram-positive bacteria. We found that these repeats are conserved among M. tuberculosis isolates, and are absent from the published M. leprae irg gene sequence. In addition to being present in M. leprae, erp sequences were found in other members of the M. tuberculosis complex, but not in other mycobacteria tested. These results suggest that erp might encode a cell surface component shared by major pathogenic mycobacteria.