The Mycobacterium bovis antigens MPB70 and MPB83 are homologous cross-reactive proteins. It has been reported previously that MPB83 is glycosylated and exists in two forms with apparent molecular masses of 23kDa and 25kDa, whereas the apparent molecular mass of MPB70 is 22kDa. Using a monoclonal antibody, SB10, which recognizes an epitope common to both MPB70 and MPB83, we compared the expression of these proteins in M. bovis BCG, virulent M. bovis and virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Western blotting of bacterial lysates. The previously described pattern of high and low producing substrains of BCG for MPB70 was also applicable for MPB83. Virulent M. bovis was found to express high levels of MPB70 and MPB83. Immunoblotting experiments using sera from Balb/c mice infected with live M. tuberculosis H37Rv revealed that although the MPB83 homologue of M. tuberculosis, MPT83, is expressed at low levels in M. tuberculosis when grown in vitro, the protein is highly immunogenic during infection with live bacteria. A clone from a mycobacterial shuttle cosmid library of M. tuberculosis H37Rv was isolated which expressed both MPT70 and MPT83. Genetic analysis of this cosmid revealed that MPT70 and MPT83 were encoded by separate genes with the gene encoding MPT83 situated 2.4kb upstream of mpt70. Both genes are transcribed in the same direction. The gene encoding MPT83 was cloned and DNA sequencing revealed an open reading frame of 660bp encoding a protein with a predicted molecular mass of 22kDa. Recombinant MPT83 was expressed in Escherichia coli from the native AUG initiation codon by translational coupling. In E. coli MPT83 was expressed as a 23kDa antigen whereas in the rapid growing mycobacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis the protein was expressed as a 25kDa protein indicating post-translational modification of the protein by M. smegmatis. In recombinant M. smegmatis MPT83 was predominantly cell associated whereas MPT70 was secreted into the culture medium. Amino acid sequence comparison between MPT83 and MPT70 revealed a 61% identity between the proteins, although little homology was apparent at the amino terminus. In MPT83 this region contained a typical lipoprotein signal peptide cleavage motif and a putative signal motif for O glycosylation. Both these motifs were absent from the amino acid sequence of MPT70.