Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is the causative agent of Johne's disease, a chronic granulomatous enteritis of ruminants and other species. Detection of infection in animals is hampered by the lack of sensitive and specific diagnostic assays. We describe here an approach that utilizes translationally active PCR fragments for the rapid in vitro transcription and translation of recombinant proteins for antigen discovery in M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. The investigations showed that the MAP1272c protein selectively reacts with sera from Johne's disease-positive cattle and represents an antigen of potential utility in M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis immunodiagnostics.