Ticks secrete a cement cone composed of many salivary proteins, some of which are rich in the amino acid glycine in order to attach to their hosts' skin. Glycine-rich proteins (GRPs) are a large family of heterogeneous proteins that have different functions and features; noteworthy are their adhesive and tensile characteristics. These properties may be essential for successful attachment of the metastriate ticks to the host and the prolonged feeding necessary for engorgement. In this work, we analyzed Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) similar to GRPs from cDNA libraries constructed from salivary glands of adult female ticks representing three hard, metastriate species in order to verify if their expression correlated with biological differences such as the numbers of hosts ticks feed on during their parasitic life cycle, whether one (monoxenous parasite) or two or more (heteroxenous parasite), and the anatomy of their mouthparts, whether short (Brevirostrata) or long (Longirostrata). These ticks were the monoxenous Brevirostrata tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, a heteroxenous Brevirostrata tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and a heteroxenous Longirostrata tick, Amblyomma cajennense. To further investigate this relationship, we conducted phylogenetic analyses using sequences of GRPs from these ticks as well as from other species of Brevirostrata and Longirostrata ticks.
cDNA libraries from salivary glands of the monoxenous tick, R. microplus, contained more contigs of glycine-rich proteins than the two representatives of heteroxenous ticks, R. sanguineus and A. cajennense (33 versus, respectively, 16 and 11). Transcripts of ESTs encoding GRPs were significantly more numerous in the salivary glands of the two Brevirostrata species when compared to the number of transcripts in the Longirostrata tick. The salivary gland libraries from Brevirostrata ticks contained numerous contigs significantly similar to silks of true spiders (17 and 8 in, respectively, R. microplus and R. sanguineus), whereas the Longirostrata tick contained only 4 contigs. The phylogenetic analyses of GRPs from various species of ticks showed that distinct clades encoding proteins with different biochemical properties are represented among species according to their biology.
We found that different species of ticks rely on different types and amounts of GRPs in order to attach and feed on their hosts. Metastriate ticks with short mouthparts express more transcripts of GRPs than a tick with long mouthparts and the tick that feeds on a single host during its life cycle contain a greater variety of these proteins than ticks that feed on several hosts.
Blood feeding evolved independently in worms, arthropods and mammals. Among the adaptations to this peculiar diet, these animals developed an armament of salivary molecules that disarm their host's anti-bleeding defenses (hemostasis), inflammatory and immune reactions. Recent sialotranscriptome analyses (from the Greek sialo = saliva) of blood feeding insects and ticks have revealed that the saliva contains hundreds of polypeptides, many unique to their genus or family. Adult tsetse flies feed exclusively on vertebrate blood and are important vectors of human and animal diseases. Thus far, only limited information exists regarding the Glossina sialome, or any other fly belonging to the Hippoboscidae.
As part of the effort to sequence the genome of Glossina morsitans morsitans, several organ specific, high quality normalized cDNA libraries have been constructed, from which over 20,000 ESTs from an adult salivary gland library were sequenced. These ESTs have been assembled using previously described ESTs from the fat body and midgut libraries of the same fly, thus totaling 62,251 ESTs, which have been assembled into 16,743 clusters (8,506 of which had one or more EST from the salivary gland library). Coding sequences were obtained for 2,509 novel proteins, 1,792 of which had at least one EST expressed in the salivary glands. Despite library normalization, 59 transcripts were overrepresented in the salivary library indicating high levels of expression. This work presents a detailed analysis of the salivary protein families identified. Protein expression was confirmed by 2D gel electrophoresis, enzymatic digestion and mass spectrometry. Concurrently, an initial attempt to determine the immunogenic properties of selected salivary proteins was undertaken.
The sialome of G. m. morsitans contains over 250 proteins that are possibly associated with blood feeding. This set includes alleles of previously described gene products, reveals new evidence that several salivary proteins are multigenic and identifies at least seven new polypeptide families unique to Glossina. Most of these proteins have no known function and thus, provide a discovery platform for the identification of novel pharmacologically active compounds, innovative vector-based vaccine targets, and immunological markers of vector exposure.
Tick salivary constituents antagonize inflammatory, immune and hemostatic host responses, favoring tick blood feeding and the establishment of tick-borne pathogens in hosts during hematophagy. Amblyomma triste, A. cajennense and A. parvum ticks are very important in veterinary and human health because they are vectors of the etiological agents for several diseases. Insights into the tick salivary components involved in blood feeding are essential to understanding vector-pathogen-host interactions, and transcriptional profiling of salivary glands is a powerful tool to do so. Here, we functionally annotated the sialotranscriptomes of these three Amblyomma species, which allowed comparisons between these and other hematophagous arthropod species.
mRNA from the salivary glands of A. triste, A. cajennense and A. parvum ticks fed on different host species were pyrosequenced on a 454-Roche platform to generate four A. triste (nymphs fed on guinea pigs and females fed on dogs) libraries, one A. cajennense (females fed on rabbits) library and one was A. parvum (females fed on dogs) library. Bioinformatic analyses used in-house programs with a customized pipeline employing standard assembly and alignment algorithms, protein databases and protein servers.
Each library yielded an average of 100,000 reads, which were assembled to obtain contigs of coding sequences (CDSs). The sialotranscriptome analyses of A. triste, A. cajennense and A. parvum ticks produced 11,240, 4,604 and 3,796 CDSs, respectively. These CDSs were classified into over 100 distinct protein families with a wide range of putative functions involved in physiological and blood feeding processes and were catalogued in annotated, hyperlinked spreadsheets. We highlighted the putative transcripts encoding saliva components with critical roles during parasitism, such as anticoagulants, immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory molecules. The salivary content underwent changes in the abundance and repertoire of many transcripts, which depended on the tick and host species.
The annotated sialotranscriptomes described herein richly expand the biological knowledge of these three Amblyomma species. These comprehensive databases will be useful for the characterization of salivary proteins and can be applied to control ticks and tick-borne diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-430) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ticks; Amblyomma cajennense; Amblyomma parvum; Amblyomma triste; Salivary gland; Saliva; Transcriptome; RNA-seq
Ticks are obligate blood feeders. The midgut is the first major region of the body where blood and microbes ingested with the blood meal come in contact with the tick's internal tissues. Little is known about protein expression in the digestive tract of ticks. In this study, for analysis of global gene expression during tick attachment and feeding, we generated and sequenced 1,679 random transcripts (ESTs) from cDNA libraries from the midguts of female ticks at varying stages of feeding.
Sequence analysis of the 1,679 ESTs resulted in the identification of 835 distinct transcripts, from these, a total of 82 transcripts were identified as proteins putatively directly involved in blood meal digestion, including enzymes involved in oxidative stress reduction/antimicrobial activity/detoxification, peptidase inhibitors, protein digestion (cysteine-, aspartic-, serine-, and metallo-peptidases), cell, protein and lipid binding including mucins and iron/heme metabolism and transport. A lectin-like protein with a high match to lectins in other tick species, allergen-like proteins and surface antigens important in pathogen recognition and/or antimicrobial activity were also found. Furthermore, midguts collected from the 6-day-fed ticks expressed twice as many transcripts involved in bloodmeal processing as midguts from unfed/2-day-fed ticks.
This tissue-specific transcriptome analysis provides an opportunity to examine the global expression of transcripts in the tick midgut and to compare the gut response to host attachment versus blood feeding and digestion. In contrast to those in salivary glands of other Ixodid ticks, most proteins in the D. variabilis midgut cDNA library were intracellular. Of the total ESTs associated with a function, an unusually large number of transcripts were associated with peptidases, cell, lipid and protein binding, and oxidative stress or detoxification. Presumably, this is consistent with their role in intracellular processing of the blood meal and response to microbial infections. The presence of many proteins with similar functions is consistent with the hypothesis that gene duplication contributed to the successful adaptation of ticks to hematophagy. Furthermore, these transcripts may be useful to scientists investigating the role of the tick midgut in blood-meal digestion, antimicrobial activity or the transmission of tick-borne pathogens.
The impact of climate on the vector behaviour of the worldwide dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus is a cause of concern. This tick is a vector for life-threatening organisms including Rickettsia rickettsii, the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, R. conorii, the agent of Mediterranean spotted fever, and the ubiquitous emerging pathogen R. massiliae. A focus of spotted fever was investigated in France in May 2007. Blood and tissue samples from two patients were tested. An entomological survey was organised with the study of climatic conditions. An experimental model was designed to test the affinity of Rh. sanguineus for biting humans in variable temperature conditions. Serological and/or molecular tools confirmed that one patient was infected by R. conorii, whereas the other was infected by R. massiliae. Dense populations of Rh. sanguineus were found. They were infected with new genotypes of clonal populations of either R. conorii (24/133; 18%) or R. massiliae (13/133; 10%). April 2007 was the warmest since 1950, with summer-like temperatures. We show herein that the human affinity of Rh. sanguineus was increased in warmer temperatures. In addition to the originality of theses cases (ophthalmic involvements, the second reported case of R. massiliae infection), we provide evidence that this cluster of cases was related to a warming-mediated increase in the aggressiveness of Rh. sanguineus, leading to increased human attacks. From a global perspective, we predict that as a result of globalisation and warming, more pathogens transmitted by the brown dog tick may emerge in the future.
The impact of climate on the behaviour of the worldwide dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus is a cause of concern. This tick is a vector for life-threatening organisms including Rickettsia rickettsii, the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, R. conorii, the agent of Mediterranean spotted fever, and the ubiquitous emerging pathogen R. massiliae. A focus of spotted fever was investigated in France in May 2007. One patient was found to be infected by R. conorii, whereas the other was infected by R. massiliae. Theses cases were original because of ophthalmic involvements, and the report of the second case of R. massiliae infection in the scientific literature. During an entomological survey, dense populations of Rh. sanguineus were found in the house where the patient had been bitten by ticks. Ticks were infected with either R. conorii or R. massiliae. Interestingly, April 2007 was the warmest since 1950, with summer-like temperatures. In this work, we show that the human affinity of Rh. sanguineus is increased in warmer temperatures, and provide evidence that this cluster of cases was related to a warming-mediated increase in the aggressiveness of Rh. sanguineus, leading to increased human attacks. From a global perspective, we predict that as a result of globalisation and warming, more pathogens transmitted by the brown dog tick may emerge in the future.
Only limited information is currently available on the prevalence of vector borne and zoonotic pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of this study was to use molecular techniques to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria.
Blood samples and ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Rhipicephalus turanicus and Heamaphysalis leachi) collected from 181 dogs from Nigeria were molecularly screened for human and animal vector-borne pathogens by PCR and sequencing. DNA of Hepatozoon canis (41.4%), Ehrlichia canis (12.7%), Rickettsia spp. (8.8%), Babesia rossi (6.6%), Anaplasma platys (6.6%), Babesia vogeli (0.6%) and Theileria sp. (0.6%) was detected in the blood samples. DNA of E. canis (23.7%), H. canis (21.1%), Rickettsia spp. (10.5%), Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (5.3%) and A. platys (1.9%) was detected in 258 ticks collected from 42 of the 181 dogs. Co- infections with two pathogens were present in 37% of the dogs examined and one dog was co-infected with 3 pathogens. DNA of Rickettsia conorii israelensis was detected in one dog and Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick. DNA of another human pathogen, Candidatus N. mikurensis was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks, and is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa. The Theileria sp. DNA detected in a local dog in this study had 98% sequence identity to Theileria ovis from sheep.
The results of this study indicate that human and animal pathogens are abundant in dogs and their ticks in Nigeria and portray the potential high risk of human exposure to infection with these agents.
In Nigeria, dogs are not only kept as pets, but are also used for hunting as well as a source of animal protein among some ethnic groups. Ticks are known to infest dogs and serve as vectors for some pathogens of zoonotic and veterinary importance. There is limited information on the prevalence and distribution of vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of the study was to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria using molecular methods. The results of this study showed a high estimate of vector borne pathogens in Nigerian dogs (77.3%) and ticks (63.3%). DNA of Candidatus N. mikurensis, an emerging pathogen of humans was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks. Another human pathogen, Rickettsia conorii israelensis the causative agent of Mediterranean spotted fever was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks. This is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa and Rickettsia conorii israelensis in Nigeria. These results indicate that the use of molecular techniques for the diagnosis of emerging infections in developing countries is of utmost importance in assisting physicians and veterinarians in making accurate diagnoses and providing the appropriate treatment for their patients.
The taxonomic status of the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu stricto), which has long been regarded as the most widespread tick worldwide and a vector of many pathogens to dogs and humans, is currently under dispute.
We conducted a comprehensive morphological and genetic study of 278 representative specimens, which belonged to different species (i.e., Rhipicephalus bursa, R. guilhoni, R. microplus, R. muhsamae, R. pusillus, R. sanguineus sensu lato, and R. turanicus) collected from Europe, Asia, Americas, and Oceania. After detailed morphological examination, ticks were molecularly processed for the analysis of partial mitochondrial (16S rDNA, 12S rDNA, and cox1) gene sequences.
In addition to R. sanguineus s.l. and R. turanicus, three different operational taxonomic units (namely, R. sp. I, R. sp. II, and R. sp. III) were found on dogs. These operational taxonomical units were morphologically and genetically different from R. sanguineus s.l. and R. turanicus. Ticks identified as R. sanguineus s.l., which corresponds to the so-called “tropical species” (=northern lineage), were found in all continents and genetically it represents a sister group of R. guilhoni. R. turanicus was found on a wide range of hosts in Italy and also on dogs in Greece.
The tropical species and the temperate species (=southern lineage) are paraphyletic groups. The occurrence of R. turanicus in the Mediterranean region is confirmed. A consensual re-description of R. sanguineus s.s. and R. turanicus will be necessary to solve the taxonomic problems within the so-called R. sanguineus group.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Taxonomy; Morphology; Phylogeny
•A nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α-subunit (Rsanα1) was identified in Rhipicephalus sanguineus.•Rsanα1 was not restricted to the synganglion (“brain”).•Rsanα1 was functionally expressed in Xenopus oocytes.•Rsanα1 responded to acetylcholine, nicotine and choline.•Rsanα1 was unresponsive to imidacloprid and spinosad.
Ticks and tick-borne diseases have a major impact on human and animal health worldwide. Current control strategies rely heavily on the use of chemical acaricides, most of which target the CNS and with increasing resistance, new drugs are urgently needed. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are targets of highly successful insecticides. We isolated a full-length nAChR α subunit from a normalised cDNA library from the synganglion (brain) of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Phylogenetic analysis has shown this R. sanguineus nAChR to be most similar to the insect α1 nAChR group and has been named Rsanα1. Rsanα1 is distributed in multiple tick tissues and is present across all life-stages. When expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes Rsanα1 failed to function as a homomer, with and without the addition of either Caenorhabditis elegans resistance-to-cholinesterase (RIC)-3 or X. laevis RIC-3. When co-expressed with chicken β2 nAChR, Rsanα1 evoked concentration-dependent, inward currents in response to acetylcholine (ACh) and showed sensitivity to nicotine (100 μM) and choline (100 μM). Rsanα1/β2 was insensitive to both imidacloprid (100 μM) and spinosad (100 μM). The unreliable expression of Rsanα1 in vitro suggests that additional subunits or chaperone proteins may be required for more robust expression. This study enhances our understanding of nAChRs in arachnids and may provide a basis for further studies on the interaction of compounds with the tick nAChR as part of a discovery process for novel acaricides.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Tick; Ion channel; Acaricide; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; Xenopus oocytes; Imidacloprid
Bovine anaplasmosis, caused by the rickettsial tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma marginale (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae), is vectored by Rhipicephalus (Boophilus)microplus in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. A. marginale undergoes a complex developmental cycle in ticks which results in infection of salivary glands from where the pathogen is transmitted to cattle. In previous studies, we reported modification of gene expression in Dermacentor variabilis and cultured Ixodes scapularis tick cells in response to infection with A. marginale. In these studies, we extended these findings by use of a functional genomics approach to identify genes differentially expressed in R. microplus male salivary glands in response to A. marginale infection. Additionally, a R. microplus-derived cell line, BME26, was used for the first time to also study tick cell gene expression in response to A. marginale infection.
Suppression subtractive hybridization libraries were constructed from infected and uninfected ticks and used to identify genes differentially expressed in male R. microplus salivary glands infected with A. marginale. A total of 279 ESTs were identified as candidate differentially expressed genes. Of these, five genes encoding for putative histamine-binding protein (22Hbp), von Willebrand factor (94Will), flagelliform silk protein (100Silk), Kunitz-like protease inhibitor precursor (108Kunz) and proline-rich protein BstNI subfamily 3 precursor (7BstNI3) were confirmed by real-time RT-PCR to be down-regulated in tick salivary glands infected with A. marginale. The impact of selected tick genes on A. marginale infections in tick salivary glands and BME26 cells was characterized by RNA interference. Silencing of the gene encoding for putative flagelliform silk protein (100Silk) resulted in reduced A. marginale infection in both tick salivary glands and cultured BME26 cells, while silencing of the gene encoding for subolesin (4D8) significantly reduced infection only in cultured BME26 cells. The knockdown of the gene encoding for putative metallothionein (93 Meth), significantly up-regulated in infected cultured BME26 cells, resulted in higher A. marginale infection levels in tick cells.
Characterization of differential gene expression in salivary glands of R. microplus in response to A. marginale infection expands our understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the tick-pathogen interface. Functional studies suggested that differentially expressed genes encoding for subolesin, putative von Willebrand factor and flagelliform silk protein could play a role in A. marginale infection and multiplication in ticks. These tick genes found to be functionally relevant for tick-pathogen interactions will likely be candidates for development of vaccines designed for control of both ticks and tick-borne pathogens.
Ixodid ticks are vectors of human diseases such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and tick-borne encephalitis. These diseases cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide and are transmitted to humans during tick feeding. The tick-host-pathogen interface is a complex environment where host responses are modulated by the molecules in tick saliva to enable the acquisition of a blood meal. Disruption of host responses at the site of the tick bite may also provide an advantage for pathogens to survive and replicate. Thus, the molecules in tick saliva not only aid the tick in securing a nutrient-rich blood meal, but can also enhance the transmission and acquisition of pathogens. To investigate the effect of feeding and flavivirus infection on the salivary gland transcript expression profile in ticks, a first-generation microarray was developed using ESTs from a cDNA library derived from Ixodes scapularis salivary glands. When the salivary gland transcript profile in ticks feeding over the course of 3 days was compared to that in unfed ticks, a dramatic increase in transcripts related to metabolism was observed. Specifically, 578 transcripts were up-regulated compared to 151 down-regulated transcripts in fed ticks. When specific time points post attachment were analyzed, a temporal pattern of gene expression was observed. When Langat virus-infected ticks were compared to mock-infected ticks, transcript expression changes were observed at all 3 days of feeding. Differentially regulated transcripts include putative secreted proteins, lipocalins, Kunitz domain-containing proteins, anti-microbial peptides, and transcripts of unknown function. These studies identify salivary gland transcripts that are differentially regulated during feeding or in the context of flavivirus infection in Ixodes scapularis nymphs, a medically important disease vector. Further analysis of these transcripts may identify salivary factors that affect the transmission or replication of tick-borne flaviviruses.
Tick vector; Ixodes scapularis; Nymph; Salivary gland; Gene expression; Feeding; Flavivirus
Rhipicephalus sanguineus, the common brown dog tick, produces several chemokine-binding proteins which are secreted into the host in its saliva to modulate the host response during feeding. Two of these demonstrate very restricted selectivity profiles. Here, we describe the characterization of the third, which we named Evasin-4. Evasin-4 was difficult to produce recombinantly using its native signal peptide in HEK cells, but expressed very well using the urokinase-type plasminogen activator signal peptide. Using SPR, Evasin-4 was shown to bind most CC chemokines. Investigation of the neutralization properties by inhibition of chemokine-induced chemotaxis showed that binding and neutralization did not correlate in all cases. Two major anomalies were observed: no binding was observed to CCL2 and CCL13, yet Evasin-4 was able to inhibit chemotaxis induced by these chemokines. Conversely, binding to CCL25 was observed, but Evasin-4 did not inhibit CCL25-induced chemotaxis. Size-exclusion chromatography confirmed that Evasin-4 forms a complex with CCL2 and CCL18. In accordance with the standard properties of unmodified small proteins, Evasin-4 was rapidly cleared following in vivo administration. To enhance the in vivo half-life and optimize its potential as a therapeutic agent, Fc fusions of Evasin-4 were created. Both the N- and C-terminal fusions were shown to retain binding activity, with the C-terminal fusion showing a modest reduction in potency.
anti-inflammatory; binding protein; Fc fusion; hemokine; tick
Ehrlichia canis, an obligatory intracellular bacterium of monocytes and macrophages, causes canine monocytic ehrlichiosis. E. canis immunodominant 30-kDa major outer membrane proteins are encoded by a polymorphic multigene family consisting of more than 20 paralogs. In the present study, we analyzed the mRNA expression of 14 paralogs in experimentally infected dogs and Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks by reverse transcription-PCR using gene-specific primers followed by Southern blotting. Eleven out of 14 paralogs in E. canis were transcribed in increasing numbers and transcription levels, while the mRNA expression of the 3 remaining paralogs was not detected in blood monocytes of infected dogs during the 56-day postinoculation period. Three different groups of R. sanguineus ticks (adult males and females and nymphs) were separately infected with E. canis by feeding on the infected dogs. In these pools of acquisition-fed ticks as well as in the transmission-fed adult ticks, the transcript from only one paralog was detected, suggesting the predominant transcription of that paralog or the suppression of the remaining paralogs in ticks. Expression of the same paralog was higher whereas expression of the remaining paralogs was lower in E. canis cultivated in dog monocyte cell line DH82 at 25°C than in E. canis cultivated at 37°C. Analysis of differential expression of p30 multigenes in dogs, ticks, or monocyte cell cultures would help in understanding the role of these gene products in pathogenesis and E. canis transmission as well as in designing a rational vaccine candidate immunogenic against canine ehrlichiosis.
Fibrinogen-related proteins with lectin activity are believed to be part of the tick innate immune system. Several fibrinogen-related proteins have been described and characterised mainly on the basis of their cDNA sequences while direct biochemical evidence is missing. One of them, the haemolymph lectin Dorin M from the tick Ornithodoros moubata was isolated and characterised in more depth.
Several fibrinogen-related proteins were detected in the haemolymph of ixodid ticks Dermacentor marginatus, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, R. pulchellus, and R. sanguineus. These proteins were recognised by sera directed against the tick lectin Dorin M and the haemagglutination activity of the ticks R. appendiculatus and D. marginatus. Cross-reactivity of the identified proteins with antibodies against the fibrinogen domain of the human ficolin was also shown. The carbohydrate-binding ability of tick haemolymph was confirmed by haemagglutination activity assays, and this activity was shown to be inhibited by neuraminic acid and sialylated glycoproteins as well as by N-acetylated hexosamines. The fibrinogen-related proteins were shown to be glycosylated and they were localised in salivary glands, midguts, and haemocytes of D. marginatus. Hemelipoglycoprotein was also recognised by sera directed against the fibrinogen-related proteins in all three Rhipicephalus species as well as in D. marginatus. However, this protein does not contain the fibrinogen domain and thus, the binding possibly results from the structure similarity between hemelipoglycoprotein and the fibrinogen domain.
The presence of fibrinogen-related proteins was shown in the haemolymph of four tick species in high abundance. Reactivity of antibodies directed against ficolin or fibrinogen-related proteins with proteins which do not contain the fibrinogen domain points out the importance of sequence analysis of the identified proteins in further studies. Previously observed expression of fibrinogen-related proteins in haemocytes together with the results of this study suggest involvement of fibrinogen-related proteins in tick immunity processes. Thus, they have potential as targets for anti-tick vaccines and as antimicrobial proteins in pharmacology. Research on fibrinogen-related proteins could reveal further details of tick innate immunity processes.
The cystatins are inhibitors of papain- and legumain-like cysteine proteinases, classified in MEROPS subfamilies I25A-I25C. This study shows that 84 % (42/50) of tick cystatins are putatively extracellular in subfamily I25B and the rest are putatively intracellular in subfamily I25A. On the neighbor joining phylogeny guide tree, subfamily I25A members cluster together, while subfamily I25B cystatins segregate among prostriata or metastriata ticks. Two Ixodes scapularis cystatins, AAY66864 and ISCW011771 that show 50–71 % amino acid identity to metastriata tick cystatins may be linked to pathways that are common to all ticks, while ISCW000447 100 % conserved in I. ricinus is important among prostriata ticks. Likewise metastriata tick cystatins, Dermacentor variabilis-ACF35512, Rhipicephalus microplus-ACX53850, A. americanum-AEO36092, R. sanguineus-ACX53922, D. variabilis-ACF35514, R. sanguineus-ACX54033 and A. macula-tum-AEO35155 that show 73–86 % amino acid identity may be essential to metastriata tick physiology. RT-PCR expression analyses revealed that I. scapularis cystatins were constitutively expressed in the salivary glands, midguts and other tissues of unfed ticks and ticks that were fed for 24–120 h, except for ISCW017861 that are restricted to the 24 h feeding time point. On the basis of mRNA expression patterns, I. scapularis cystatins, ISCW017861, ISCW011771, ISCW002215 and ISCW0024528 that are highly expressed at 24 h are likely involved in regulating early stage tick feeding events such as tick attachment onto host skin and creation of the feeding lesion. Similarly, ISCW018602, ISCW018603 and ISCW000447 that show 2–3 fold transcript increase by 120 h of feeding are likely associated with blood meal up take, while those that maintain steady state expression levels (ISCW018600, ISCW018601 and ISCW018604) during feeding may not be associated with tick feeding regulation. We discuss our findings in the context of advancing our knowledge of tick molecular biology.
Ixodes scapularis; Cystatins and tick physiology; Tick cystatin molecular relationship
Rickettsia conorii conorii is the etiological agent of Mediterranean spotted fever, which is transmitted by the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. The relationship between the Rickettsia and its tick vector are still poorly understood one century after the first description of this disease.
An entomological survey was organized in Algeria to collect ticks from the houses of patients with spotted fever signs. Colonies of R. conorii conorii-infected and non-infected ticks were established under laboratory conditions. Gimenez staining and electron microscopy on the ovaries of infected ticks indicated heavy rickettsial infection. The transovarial transmission of R. conorii conorii in naturally infected Rh. sanguineus ticks was 100% at eleven generations, and the filial infection rate was up to 99% according to molecular analyses. No differences in life cycle duration were observed between infected and non-infected ticks held at 25°C, but the average weight of engorged females and eggs was significantly lower in infected ticks than in non-infected ticks. The eggs, larvae and unfed nymphs of infected and non-infected ticks could not tolerate low (4°C) or high (37°C) temperatures or long starvation periods. R. conorii conorii-infected engorged nymphs that were exposed to a low or high temperature for one month experienced higher mortality when they were transferred to 25°C than non-infected ticks after similar exposure. High mortality was observed in infected adults that were maintained for one month at a low or high temperature after tick-feeding on rabbits.
These preliminary results suggest that infected quiescent ticks may not survive the winter and may help explain the low prevalence of infected Rh. sanguineus in nature. Further investigations on the influence of extrinsic factors on diapaused R. conorii-infected and non-infected ticks are required.
The bacterium Rickettsia conorii conorii is the etiological agent of Mediterranean spotted fever (MSF), which is a life-threatening infectious disease that is transmitted by Rhipicephalus sanguineus, the brown dog tick. Rh. sanguineus-R. conorii conorii relationships in the wild are still poorly understood one century after the discovery of the disease. In this study, we collected naturally infected ticks from the houses of people afflicted by MSF in Algeria. Colonies of both infected and non-infected ticks were maintained in our laboratory, and we studied the effect of temperature variations on the infected and non-infected ticks. We did not observe any major differences between the biological life cycle of the infected and non-infected ticks held at 25°C. However, a comparatively higher mortality relative to the control group was noticed when R. conorii conorii-infected engorged nymphs and adults were exposed to a low temperature (4°C) or high temperature (37°C) for one month and transferred to 25°C. R. conorii conorii-infected Rh. sanguineus may maintain and serve as reservoirs for the Rickettsia if they are not exposed to cold temperatures. New populations of ticks might become infected with Rickettsiae when feeding on a bacteremic animal reservoir.
In the Eastern and Upper Midwestern regions of North America, Ixodes scapularis (L.) is the most abundant tick species encountered by humans and the primary vector of B. burgdorferi, whereas in the southeastern region Amblyomma americanum (Say) is the most abundant tick species encountered by humans but cannot transmit B. burgdorferi. Surveys of Borreliae in ticks have been conducted in the southeastern United States and often these surveys identify B. lonestari as the primary Borrelia species, surveys have not included Arkansas ticks, canines, or white-tailed deer and B. lonestari is not considered pathogenic. The objective of this study was to identify Borrelia species within Arkansas by screening ticks (n = 2123), canines (n = 173), and white-tailed deer (n = 228) to determine the identity and locations of Borreliae endemic to Arkansas using PCR amplification of the flagellin (flaB) gene.
Field collected ticks from canines and from hunter-killed white-tailed were identified to species and life stage. After which, ticks and their hosts were screened for the presence of Borrelia using PCR to amplify the flaB gene. A subset of the positive samples was confirmed with bidirectional sequencing.
In total 53 (21.2%) white-tailed deer, ten (6%) canines, and 583 (27.5%) Ixodid ticks (252 Ixodes scapularis, 161 A. americanum, 88 Rhipicephalus sanguineus, 50 Amblyomma maculatum, 19 Dermacentor variabilis, and 13 unidentified Amblyomma species) produced a Borrelia flaB amplicon. Of the positive ticks, 324 (22.7%) were collected from canines (151 A. americanum, 78 R. sanguineus, 43 I. scapularis, 26 A. maculatum, 18 D. variabilis, and 8 Amblyomma species) and 259 (37.2%) were collected from white-tailed deer (209 I. scapularis, 24 A. maculatum, 10 A. americanum, 10 R. sanguineus, 1 D. variabilis, and 5 Amblyomma species). None of the larvae were PCR positive. A majority of the flaB amplicons were homologous with B. lonestari sequences: 281 of the 296 sequenced ticks, 3 canines, and 27 deer. Only 22 deer, 7 canines, and 15 tick flaB amplicons (12 I. scapularis, 2 A. maculatum, and 1 Amblyomma species) were homologous with B. burgdorferi sequences.
Data from this study identified multiple Borreliae genotypes in Arkansas ticks, canines and deer including B. burgdorferi and B. lonestari; however, B. lonestari was significantly more prevalent in the tick population than B. burgdorferi. Results from this study suggest that the majority of tick-borne diseases in Arkansas are not B. burgdorferi.
Borrelia; Ticks; Vector borne; Surveillance; Deer
Cattle babesiosis is a tick-borne disease of cattle with the most severe form of the disease caused by the apicomplexan, Babesia bovis. Babesiosis is transmitted to cattle through the bite of infected cattle ticks of the genus Rhipicephalus. The most prevalent species is Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, which is distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical countries of the world. The transmission of B. bovis is transovarian and a previous study of the R. microplus ovarian proteome identified several R. microplus proteins that were differentially expressed in response to infection. Through various approaches, we studied the reaction of the R. microplus ovarian transcriptome in response to infection by B. bovis.
A group of ticks were allowed to feed on a B. bovis-infected splenectomized calf while a second group fed on an uninfected splenectomized control calf. RNA was purified from dissected adult female ovaries of both infected and uninfected ticks and a subtracted B. bovis-infected cDNA library was synthesized, subtracting with the uninfected ovarian RNA. Four thousand ESTs were sequenced from the ovary subtracted library and annotated.
The subtracted library dataset assembled into 727 unique contigs and 2,161 singletons for a total of 2,888 unigenes, Microarray experiments designed to detect B. bovis-induced gene expression changes indicated at least 15 transcripts were expressed at a higher level in ovaries from ticks feeding upon the B. bovis-infected calf as compared with ovaries from ticks feeding on an uninfected calf. We did not detect any transcripts from these microarray experiments that were expressed at a lower level in the infected ovaries compared with the uninfected ovaries. Using the technique called serial analysis of gene expression, 41 ovarian transcripts from infected ticks were differentially expressed when compared with transcripts of controls.
Collectively, our experimental approaches provide the first comprehensive profile of the R. microplus ovarian transcriptome responding to infection by B. bovis. This dataset should prove useful in molecular studies of host-pathogen interactions between this tick and its apicomplexan parasite.
Cattle tick; Rhipicephalus microplus; Babesia bovis; Ovary; Transcriptome; EST
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging pathogen of humans, dogs and other animals, and it is transmitted by ixodid ticks. The objective of the current study was a) detect A. phagocytophilum in dogs and ixodid ticks using real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR); and b) Determine important variables associated to host, environment and potential tick vectors that are related to the presence of A. phagocytophilum in dogs domiciled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We tested blood samples from 398 dogs and samples from 235 ticks, including 194 Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato, 15 Amblyomma cajennense, 8 Amblyomma ovale and 18 pools of Amblyomma sp. nymphs. A semi-structured questionnaire was applied by interviewing each dog owner. Deoxyribonucleic acid obtained from ticks and dog buffy coat samples were amplified by qPCR (msp2 gene). The sequencing of 16S rRNA and groESL heat shock operon genes and a phylogenetic analysis was performed. The multiple logistic regression model was created as a function of testing positive dogs for A. phagocytophilum.
Among the 398 blood samples from dogs, 6.03% were positive for A. phagocytophilum. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected in one A. cajennense female tick and in five R. sanguineus sensu lato ticks (four males and one female). The partial sequences of the 16S rRNA, and groESL genes obtained were highly similar to strains of A. phagocytophilum isolated from wild birds from Brazil and human pathogenic strains. The tick species collected in positive dogs were R. sanguineus sensu lato and A. cajennense, with A.cajennense being predominant. Tick infestation history (OR = 2.86, CI = 1.98-14.87), dog size (OR = 2.41, IC: 1.51-12.67), the access to forest areas (OR = 3:51, CI: 1.52-16.32), hygiene conditions of the environment in which the dogs lived (OR = 4.35, CI: 1.86-18.63) and Amblyomma sp. infestation (OR = 6.12; CI: 2.11-28.15) were associated with A. phagocytophilum infection in dogs.
This is the first report of A. phagocytophilum in ixodid ticks from Brazil. The detection of A. phagocitophylum in A. cajennense, an aggressive feeder on a wide variety of hosts, including humans, is considered a public health concern.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Dogs; Ticks; Epidemiology; Emerging zoonoses
The acquisition and transmission of rickettsial pathogens by different tick developmental stages has important epidemiological implications. The purpose of this study was to determine if male Rhipicephalus sanguineus can experimentally acquire and transmit Ehrlichia canis in the absence of female ticks. Two trials were performed where nymphal and male R. sanguineus were simultaneously acquisition fed on the same infected donor hosts, and transstadially or intrastadially exposed male ticks were fed on separate pathogen-free dogs as a test for transmission. A single-step p30-based PCR assay was used to test canine and tick hosts for E. canis infections before and after tick feeding. E. canis was detected after either intrastadial or transstadial passage in male ticks, the organism remained detectable in both tick groups after transmission feeding, and both tick groups transmitted the rickettsia to susceptible dogs. Infection of dogs via tick feeding resulted in milder clinical signs and lower antibody titers than intravenous inoculation of carrier blood, but further investigation is needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for this observation. These results demonstrate that male R. sanguineus can take multiple feedings, and that they can both acquire and transmit E. canis in the absence of female ticks. This tick development stage could be important in transmission of E. canis, and perhaps related pathogens, between vertebrate hosts under natural and experimental conditions.
Ehrlichia canis; Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis; Tick transmission; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Metastriata
We previously culture isolated a strain of Ehrlichia canis, the causative agent of canine ehrlichiosis, from a human in Venezuela. In the present study, we examined whether dogs and ticks are infected with E. canis in Venezuela and, if so, whether this is the same strain as the human isolate. PCR analysis using E. canis-specific primers revealed that 17 of the 55 dog blood samples (31%) and all three pools of four Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks each were positive. An ehrlichial agent (Venezuelan dog Ehrlichia [VDE]) was isolated and propagated in cell culture from one dog sample and was further analyzed to determine its molecular and antigenic characteristics. The 16S rRNA 1,408-bp sequence of the new VDE isolate was identical to that of the previously reported Venezuelan human Ehrlichia isolate (VHE) and was closely related (99.9%) to that of E. canis Oklahoma. The 5′ (333-bp) and 3′ (653-bp) sequences of the variable regions of the 16S rRNA genes from six additional E. canis-positive dog blood specimens and from three pooled-tick specimens were also identical to those of VHE. Western blot analysis of serum samples from three dogs infected with VDE by using several ehrlichial antigens revealed that the antigenic profile of the VDE was similar to the profiles of VHE and E. canis Oklahoma. Identical 16S rRNA gene sequences among ehrlichial organisms from dogs, ticks, and a human in the same geographic region in Venezuela and similar antigenic profiles between the dog and human isolates suggest that dogs serve as a reservoir of human E. canis infection and that R. sanguineus, which occasionally bites humans residing or traveling in this region, serves as a vector. This is the first report of culture isolation and antigenic characterization of an ehrlichial agent from a dog in South America, as well as the first molecular characterization of E. canis directly from naturally infected ticks.
Sand flies are the only biologically adapted vectors of Leishmania parasites, however, a possible role in the transmission of Leishmania has been proposed for other hematophagous ectoparasites such as ticks. In order to evaluate natural infection by Leishmania infantum in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks, taking into account its close association with dogs, 128 adult R. sanguineus ticks removed from 41 dogs living in endemic areas of canine leishmaniosis were studied.
Individual DNA extraction was performed from each tick and whole blood taken from dogs. Dog sera were tested for IgG antibodies to L. infantum antigen by ELISA and L. infantum real-time PCR was performed from canine whole blood samples and ticks.
Leishmania infantum PCR was positive in 13 ticks (10.1%) including one female, (2.0%) and 12 males (15.2%), and in only five dogs (12.2%). Male ticks had a significantly higher infection rate when compared to female R. sanguineus. The percentage of L. infantum seroreactive dogs was 19.5%. All but two PCR positive dogs were seroreactive. Leishmania infantum PCR positive ticks were removed from seropositive and seronegative dogs with a variety of PCR results.
This study demonstrates high prevalence of L. infantum DNA in R. sanguineus ticks removed from L. infantum seropositive and seronegative dogs. The presence of L. infantum DNA was detected mainly in male ticks possibly due to their ability to move between canine hosts and feed on several canine hosts during the adult life stage. Additional studies are needed to further explore the role of R. sanguineus ticks and in particular, male adults, in both the epidemiology and immunology of L. infantum infection in dogs in endemic areas.
Leishmania infantum; Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks; PCR; Dog
Leishmania infantum is a widespread parasite that affects dogs and humans worldwide. It is transmitted primarily by phlebotomine sand flies, but recently there has been much discussion on the role of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, as a potential vector for this protozoan. Recent laboratory and field investigations have contributed to this hypothesis, but a proof of the vector capacity of R. sanguineus has yet to be provided. Following a recent study suggesting that L. infantum passes transovarially from the female tick to her progeny the current study provides new evidence of the transovarial transmission of L. infantum in R. sanguineus.
Engorged females of R. sanguineus were collected from the environment in a dog shelter of southern Italy, where canine leishmaniosis is endemic. In the laboratory, 97 females that successfully laid eggs, their eggs and the originated larvae were subjected to DNA extraction and then tested by a TaqMan-based real time PCR targeting a fragment of the kinetoplast DNA (kDNA) of L. infantum.
Results and conclusions
L. infantum kDNA was detected in engorged females, their eggs and originating larvae, with a parasite load ranging from 1.8 × 10-4 to 10.0 × 100. Certainly, the current study provides further evidence on the passage of L. infantum from R. sanguineus females to their offspring. The observation of promastigote forms in larvae is necessary to definitively confirm this hypothesis, which would raise interesting questions about the possible role of ticks in the maintenance of L. infantum infection among dogs in certain areas.
Fluralaner is a novel isoxazoline eliciting both acaricidal and insecticidal activity through potent blockage of GABA- and glutamate-gated chloride channels. The aim of the study was to investigate the susceptibility of juvenile stages of common tick species exposed to fluralaner through either contact (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) or contact and feeding routes (Ornithodoros moubata).
Fluralaner acaricidal activity through both contact and feeding exposure was measured in vitro using two separate testing protocols. Acaricidal contact activity against Rhipicephalus sanguineus life stages was assessed using three minute immersion in fluralaner concentrations between 50 and 0.05 μg/mL (larvae) or between 1000 and 0.2 μg/mL (nymphs and adults). Contact and feeding activity against Ornithodoros moubata nymphs was assessed using fluralaner concentrations between 1000 to 10−4 μg/mL (contact test) and 0.1 to 10−10 μg/mL (feeding test). Activity was assessed 48 hours after exposure and all tests included vehicle and untreated negative control groups.
Fluralaner lethal concentrations (LC50, LC90/95) were defined as concentrations with either 50%, 90% or 95% killing effect in the tested sample population. After contact exposure of R. sanguineus life stages lethal concentrations were (μg/mL): larvae - LC50 0.7, LC90 2.4; nymphs - LC50 1.4, LC90 2.6; and adults - LC50 278, LC90 1973. After exposure of O. moubata nymphs to fluralaner lethal concentrations were (μg/mL): contact exposure - LC50 720, LC95 1133; and feeding exposure- LC50 0.00007, LC95 0.09.
Fluralaner demonstrates potent in vitro acaricidal activity against all life stages of the brown dog tick, R.sanguineus. The testing of fluralaner contact and feeding routes using O. moubata nymphs demonstrates a high acaricidal activity in both exposure routes.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Ornithodoros moubata; Fluralaner; Acaricidal activity; Tick life stages
Progress in generating comprehensive EST libraries and genome sequencing is setting the stage for reverse genetic approaches to gene function studies in the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis). However, proving that RNAi can work in nervous tissue has been problematic. Developing an ability to manipulate gene expression in the tick synganglia likely would accelerate understanding of tick neurobiology. Here, we assess gene silencing by RNA interference in the adult female black-legged tick synganglia.
Tick β-Actin and Na+-K+-ATPase were chosen as targets because both genes express in all tick tissues including synganglia. This allowed us to deliver dsRNA in the unfed adult female ticks and follow a) uptake of dsRNA and b) gene disruption in synganglia. In vitro assays demonstrated total disruption of both tick β-Actin and Na+-K+-ATPase in the synganglia, salivary glands and midguts. When dsRNA was microinjected in unfed adult female ticks, nearly all exhibited target gene disruption in the synganglia once ticks were partially blood fed.
Abdominal injection of dsRNA into unfed adult female ticks appears to silence target gene expression even in the tick synganglia. The ability of dsRNA to cross the blood-brain barrier in ticks suggests that RNAi should prove to be a useful method for dissecting function of synganglia genes expressing specific neuropeptides in order to better assess their role in tick biology.
Babesiosis is a haemoparasitic disease of domestic and wild animals caused by species of the genus Babesia. Babesia bigemina, B. bovis and B. divergens are known to be pathogenic in cattle. The disease is transmitted during blood feeding by infected ticks and is the most economically important tick-borne disease in tropical and subtropical areas. Ixodid ticks are vectors in the transmission of babesiosis. The classic presentation is a febrile syndrome with apparent anemia and hemoglobinuria. This study was carried out to determine species of bovine Babesia spp. vector ticks collected from naturally occurring bovine babesiosis in West and North-West of Iran.
Two hundred and eleven ticks were collected from 113 cattle and ticks’ species were identified using the standard taxonomic keys. After DNA extraction from salivary glands of each tick, the presence of Babesia spp. infection in ticks was examined by PCR method using primers derived from the gene encoding rhoptry protein.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus and R. bursa ticks were infected with bovine Babesia spp.
Rhipicephalus spp. may play a major role in the transmission of infection of bovine Babesia spp. in West and North-West of Iran.
Babesia; Rhipicephalus; bovine; PCR; Iran