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Abstract Members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) are the causative agents of tuberculosis in a range of mammals, including humans. A key feature of MTBC pathogens is their high degree of genetic identity, yet distinct host tropism. Notably, while Mycobacterium bovis is highly virulent and pathogenic for cattle, the human pathogen M. tuberculosis is attenuated in cattle. Previous research also suggests that host preference amongst MTBC members has a basis in host innate immune responses. To explore MTBC host tropism, we present in-depth profiling of the MTBC reference strains M. bovis AF2122/97 and M. tuberculosis H37Rv at both the global transcriptional and translational level via RNA-sequencing and SWATH mass spectrometry. Furthermore, a bovine alveolar macrophage infection time course model was employed to investigate the shared and divergent host transcriptomic response to infection with M. tuberculosis or M. bovis . Significant differential expression of virulence-associated pathways between the two bacilli was revealed, including the ESX-1 secretion system. A divergent transcriptional response was observed between M. tuberculosis and M. bovis infection of bovine alveolar macrophages, in particular cytosolic DNA-sensing pathways at 48 hours post-infection, and highlights a distinct engagement of M. bovis with the bovine innate immune system. The work presented here therefore provides a basis for the identification of host innate immune mechanisms subverted by virulent host-adapted mycobacteria to promote their survival during the early stages of infection. Importance The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) includes the most important global pathogens for humans and animals, namely Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis, respectively. These two exemplar mycobacterial pathogens share a high degree of genetic identity, but the molecular basis for their distinct host preference is unknown. In this work we integrated transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of the pathogens to elucidate global quantitative differences between them at the mRNA and protein level. We then integrated this data with transcriptome analysis of the bovine macrophage response to infection with either pathogen. Increased expression of the ESX-1 virulence system in M. bovis appeared a key driver of an increased cytosolic nucleic acid sensing and interferon response in bovine macrophages infected with M. bovis compared to M. tuberculosis. Our work demonstrates the specificity of host-pathogen interaction and how the subtle interplay between mycobacterial phenotype and host response may underpin host specificity amongst MTBC members.

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