Tuberculosis continues to be a worldwide problem for both humans and animals. The development of tests to differentiate between infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Mycobacterium bovis and vaccination with M. bovis BCG could greatly assist in the diagnosis of early infection as well as enhance the use of tuberculosis vaccines on a wider scale. Recombinant forms of four major secreted proteins of M. bovis-MPB59, MPB64, MPB70, and ESAT-6-were tested in a whole-blood gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) assay for differentiation between cattle vaccinated with BCG and those experimentally infected with M. bovis. BCG vaccination induced minimal protection in the present study, with similar numbers of animals infected with M. bovis in BCG-vaccinated and nonvaccinated groups. Following vaccination with BCG, the animals produced moderate IFN-gamma responses to bovine purified protein derivative (PPDB) but very weak responses to the recombinant antigens. Cattle from both the BCG-vaccinated and nonvaccinated groups which were M. bovis culture positive following challenge produced IFN-gamma responses to PPDB and ESAT-6 which were significantly stronger than those observed in the corresponding M. bovis culture-negative animals. IFN-gamma responses to MPB59, MPB64, and MPB70 were significantly weaker, and these antigens could not discriminate between vaccinated animals which develop disease and the culture-negative animals. The results of the study indicate that of the four antigens tested in the IFN-gamma assay, only ESAT-6 would be suitable for differentiating BCG-vaccinated animals from those infected with bovine tuberculosis.