Recent information from several laboratories points to proteins secreted from live Mycobacterium tuberculosis as being involved in protective immunity. We have studied protein release from M. tuberculosis during growth and have defined 3 different groups of proteins: excreted proteins, secreted proteins of the outer cell wall and cytoplasmic proteins released at late culture timepoints. These findings have lead to the definition of a short-term culture filtrate (ST-CF) enriched in excreted/secreted proteins and with a minimal content of autolytic products. ST-CF was tested as antigen in experimental vaccines against tuberculosis. A vaccine based on the adjuvant dimethyldioctadecylammonium chloride (DDA) was constructed and demonstrated to induce a potent cell mediated immune response of the Th-1 type. The vaccine was tested in parallel with a BCG standard vaccine and both vaccines induced a highly significant protection of the same magnitude. Molecules within the Ag85 complex and a 6-kDA secreted protein were mapped as the major antigenic targets for long-lived T cells involved in protective immunity against M. tuberculosis.