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1.  Proteomic Analysis of Cattle Tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus Saliva: A Comparison between Partially and Fully Engorged Females 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94831.
The cattle tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus is one of the most harmful parasites affecting bovines. Similarly to other hematophagous ectoparasites, R. microplus saliva contains a collection of bioactive compounds that inhibit host defenses against tick feeding activity. Thus, the study of tick salivary components offers opportunities for the development of immunological based tick control methods and medicinal applications. So far, only a few proteins have been identified in cattle tick saliva. The aim of this work was to identify proteins present in R. microplus female tick saliva at different feeding stages. Proteomic analysis of R. microplus saliva allowed identifying peptides corresponding to 187 and 68 tick and bovine proteins, respectively. Our data confirm that (i) R. microplus saliva is complex, and (ii) that there are remarkable differences in saliva composition between partially engorged and fully engorged female ticks. R. microplus saliva is rich mainly in (i) hemelipoproteins and other transporter proteins, (ii) secreted cross-tick species conserved proteins, (iii) lipocalins, (iv) peptidase inhibitors, (v) antimicrobial peptides, (vii) glycine-rich proteins, (viii) housekeeping proteins and (ix) host proteins. This investigation represents the first proteomic study about R. microplus saliva, and reports the most comprehensive Ixodidae tick saliva proteome published to date. Our results improve the understanding of tick salivary modulators of host defense to tick feeding, and provide novel information on the tick-host relationship.
PMCID: PMC3998978  PMID: 24762651
2.  The sialotranscriptome of Amblyomma triste, Amblyomma parvum and Amblyomma cajennense ticks, uncovered by 454-based RNA-seq 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):430.
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.
PMCID: PMC4261526  PMID: 25201527
Ticks; Amblyomma cajennense; Amblyomma parvum; Amblyomma triste; Salivary gland; Saliva; Transcriptome; RNA-seq
3.  Differential expression of genes in salivary glands of male Rhipicephalus (Boophilus)microplus in response to infection with Anaplasma marginale 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:186.
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.
PMCID: PMC2848250  PMID: 20298599
4.  The ovarian transcriptome of the cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, feeding upon a bovine host infected with Babesia bovis 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:276.
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.
PMCID: PMC4028808  PMID: 24330595
Cattle tick; Rhipicephalus microplus; Babesia bovis; Ovary; Transcriptome; EST
5.  Ixodid ticks of traditionally managed cattle in central Nigeria: where Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus does not dare (yet?) 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:171.
Ticks and tick-borne diseases (TBDs) undermine cattle fitness and productivity in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria. The aim of this study was to document the composition of tick species, assessing the burden of infestation, in traditionally managed cattle in an area of central Nigeria where acaricides have not been used historically.
The study was carried out in September 2010 in 9 villages belonging to three neighbouring local government areas in Plateau State, Nigeria. In each village all visible adult ticks were collected from at least 15 cattle (mean number = 25). Collected ticks were preserved in 70% ethanol to be counted and morphologically identified to the species level.
A total of 5011 ixodid ticks (1935 males and 3076 females) were collected from 228 cattle, comprising 14 calves, 33 juveniles, and 181 adults. Three tick genera (i.e., Amblyomma, Hyalomma, and Rhipicephalus, including the Boophilus sub-genus) and 11 species were identified. The most prevalent species was Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) decoloratus (41.4%), followed by Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus (15.4%), Rhipicephalus guilhoni (12.0%), Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) geigyi (7.6%), Hyalomma truncatum (7.4%), Amblyomma variegatum (6.3%), Rhipicephalus simus Group (4.0%), Rhipicephalus turanicus (1.2%), Rhipicephalus sanguineus (0.3%), Hyalomma rufipes (0.2%), and Rhipicephalus lunulatus (n = 1). Mean tick loads recorded were relatively high (22 ± 1.4), in spite of the practice of hand removal of ticks traditionally undertaken by the Fulani pastoralists in the area. Calves bore a significantly lower tick burden than adults (p = 0.004). Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus was not found in the area, suggesting that the eastbound expansion of this tick species in West Africa, has not yet reached central Nigeria.
This study ascertained the presence of a broad variety of cattle tick species, most of which are of veterinary importance. The presence of each tick species is correlated with the potential occurrence of tick-borne pathogens and suggestions for tick control in the area are considered. Results should assist the diagnosis of related TBDs in cattle as well as the strategic planning of cost-effective tick control.
PMCID: PMC3681633  PMID: 23758913
Cattle; Ticks; Tick-borne diseases; sub-Saharan Africa; Nigeria
6.  Novel Immunomodulators from Hard Ticks Selectively Reprogramme Human Dendritic Cell Responses 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(6):e1003450.
Hard ticks subvert the immune responses of their vertebrate hosts in order to feed for much longer periods than other blood-feeding ectoparasites; this may be one reason why they transmit perhaps the greatest diversity of pathogens of any arthropod vector. Tick-induced immunomodulation is mediated by salivary components, some of which neutralise elements of innate immunity or inhibit the development of adaptive immunity. As dendritic cells (DC) trigger and help to regulate adaptive immunity, they are an ideal target for immunomodulation. However, previously described immunoactive components of tick saliva are either highly promiscuous in their cellular and molecular targets or have limited effects on DC. Here we address the question of whether the largest and globally most important group of ticks (the ixodid metastriates) produce salivary molecules that specifically modulate DC activity. We used chromatography to isolate a salivary gland protein (Japanin) from Rhipicephalus appendiculatus ticks. Japanin was cloned, and recombinant protein was produced in a baculoviral expression system. We found that Japanin specifically reprogrammes DC responses to a wide variety of stimuli in vitro, radically altering their expression of co-stimulatory and co-inhibitory transmembrane molecules (measured by flow cytometry) and their secretion of pro-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory and T cell polarising cytokines (assessed by Luminex multiplex assays); it also inhibits the differentiation of DC from monocytes. Sequence alignments and enzymatic deglycosylation revealed Japanin to be a 17.7 kDa, N-glycosylated lipocalin. Using molecular cloning and database searches, we have identified a group of homologous proteins in R. appendiculatus and related species, three of which we have expressed and shown to possess DC-modulatory activity. All data were obtained using DC generated from at least four human blood donors, with rigorous statistical analysis. Our results suggest a previously unknown mechanism for parasite-induced subversion of adaptive immunity, one which may also facilitate pathogen transmission.
Author Summary
Dendritic cells (DC) are specialised cells of the vertebrate immune system. DC can sense different types of infectious agents and parasites, and both trigger and help regulate the specific types of immunity needed to eliminate them. We have discovered that the largest and globally most important group of hard ticks produce a unique family of proteins in their saliva that selectively targets DC, radically altering functions that would otherwise induce robust immune responses; these proteins also prevent DC developing from precursor cells. The production of these salivary molecules may help to explain two highly unusual features of these hard ticks compared with other blood-feeding parasites: their ability to feed continuously on their vertebrate hosts for considerable lengths of time (7 days or more) without eliciting potentially damaging immune responses, and their capacity to transmit possibly the greatest variety of pathogens of any type of invertebrate.
PMCID: PMC3695081  PMID: 23825947
7.  Proteomics Approach to the Study of Cattle Tick Adaptation to White Tailed Deer 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:319812.
Cattle ticks, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, are a serious threat to animal health and production. Some ticks feed on a single host species while others such as R. microplus infest multiple hosts. White tailed deer (WTD) play a role in the maintenance and expansion of cattle tick populations. However, cattle ticks fed on WTD show lower weight and reproductive performance when compared to ticks fed on cattle, suggesting the existence of host factors that affect tick feeding and reproduction. To elucidate these factors, a proteomics approach was used to characterize tick and host proteins in R. microplus ticks fed on cattle and WTD. The results showed that R. microplus ticks fed on cattle have overrepresented tick proteins involved in blood digestion and reproduction when compared to ticks fed on WTD, while host proteins were differentially represented in ticks fed on cattle or WTD. Although a direct connection cannot be made between differentially represented tick and host proteins, these results suggested that differentially represented host proteins together with other host factors could be associated with higher R. microplus tick feeding and reproduction observed in ticks fed on cattle.
PMCID: PMC3865695  PMID: 24364032
8.  Bioinformatics and expression analyses of the Ixodes scapularis tick cystatin family 
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.
PMCID: PMC4058331  PMID: 23053911
Ixodes scapularis; Cystatins and tick physiology; Tick cystatin molecular relationship
9.  Tick capillary feeding for the study of proteins involved in tick-pathogen interactions as potential antigens for the control of tick infestation and pathogen infection 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:42.
Ticks represent a significant health risk to animals and humans due to the variety of pathogens they can transmit during feeding. The traditional use of chemicals to control ticks has serious drawbacks, including the selection of acaricide-resistant ticks and environmental contamination with chemical residues. Vaccination with the tick midgut antigen BM86 was shown to be a good alternative for cattle tick control. However, results vary considerably between tick species and geographic location. Therefore, new antigens are required for the development of vaccines controlling both tick infestations and pathogen infection/transmission. Tick proteins involved in tick-pathogen interactions may provide good candidate protective antigens for these vaccines, but appropriate screening procedures are needed to select the best candidates.
In this study, we selected proteins involved in tick-Anaplasma (Subolesin and SILK) and tick-Babesia (TROSPA) interactions and used in vitro capillary feeding to characterize their potential as antigens for the control of cattle tick infestations and infection with Anaplasma marginale and Babesia bigemina. Purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies were generated against recombinant SUB, SILK and TROSPA and added to uninfected or infected bovine blood to capillary-feed female Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus ticks. Tick weight, oviposition and pathogen DNA levels were determined in treated and control ticks.
The specificity of purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies against tick recombinant proteins was confirmed by Western blot and against native proteins in tick cell lines and tick tissues using immunofluorescence. Capillary-fed ticks ingested antibodies added to the blood meal and the effect of these antibodies on tick weight and oviposition was shown. However, no effect was observed on pathogen DNA levels.
These results highlighted the advantages and some of the disadvantages of in vitro tick capillary feeding for the characterization of candidate tick protective antigens. While an effect on tick weight and oviposition was observed, the effect on pathogen levels was not evident probably due to high tick-to-tick variations among other factors. Nevertheless, these results together with previous results of RNA interference functional studies suggest that these proteins are good candidate vaccine antigens for the control of R. microplus infestations and infection with A. marginale and B. bigemina.
PMCID: PMC3900739  PMID: 24450836
Tick; Pathogen; Anaplasma; Babesia; Capillary feeding; Vaccine; Tick cell line
10.  Blood feeding by the Rocky Mountain spotted fever vector, Dermacentor andersoni, induces interleukin-4 expression by cognate antigen responding CD4+ T cells 
Parasites & Vectors  2009;2:47.
Tick modulation of host defenses facilitates both blood feeding and pathogen transmission. Several tick species deviate host T cell responses toward a Th2 cytokine profile. The majority of studies of modulation of T cell cytokine expression by ticks were performed with lymphocytes from infested mice stimulated in vitro with polyclonal T cell activators. Those reports did not examine tick modulation of antigen specific responses. We report use of a transgenic T cell receptor (TCR) adoptive transfer model reactive with influenza hemagglutinin peptide (110-120) to examine CD4+ T cell intracellular cytokine responses during infestation with the metastriate tick, Dermacentor andersoni, or exposure to salivary gland extracts.
Infestation with pathogen-free D. andersoni nymphs or administration of an intradermal injection of female or male tick salivary gland extract induced significant increases of IL-4 transcripts in skin and draining lymph nodes of BALB/c mice as measured by quantitative real-time RT-PCR. Furthermore, IL-10 transcripts were significantly increased in skin while IL-2 and IFN-γ transcripts were not significantly changed by tick feeding or intradermal injection of salivary gland proteins, suggesting a superimposed Th2 response. Infestation induced TCR transgenic CD4+ T cells to divide more frequently as measured by CFSE dilution, but more notably these CD4+ T cells also gained the capacity to express IL-4. Intracellular levels of IL-4 were significantly increased. A second infestation administered 14 days after a primary exposure to ticks resulted in partially reduced CFSE dilution with no change in IL-4 expression when compared to one exposure to ticks. Intradermal inoculation of salivary gland extracts from both male and female ticks also induced IL-4 expression.
This is the first report of the influence of a metastriate tick on the cytokine profile of antigen specific CD4+ T cells. Blood feeding by D. andersoni pathogen-free nymphs or intradermal injection of salivary gland extracts programs influenza hemagglutinin influenza peptide specific TCR transgenic CD4+ T cells to express IL-4.
PMCID: PMC2764639  PMID: 19814808
11.  Molecular epidemiology of the emerging zoonosis agent Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Foggie, 1949) in dogs and ixodid ticks in Brazil 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:348.
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.
PMCID: PMC3874603  PMID: 24330631
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Dogs; Ticks; Epidemiology; Emerging zoonoses
12.  Temporal characterisation of the organ-specific Rhipicephalusmicroplus transcriptional response to Anaplasma marginale infection 
Graphical abstract
► Analysis of Rhipicephalus microplus tick gene expression during feeding. ► A massive organ-specific transcriptional response to tick feeding is confirmed. ► Analysis of tick response to infection with the cattle pathogen Anaplasma marginale. ► Anaplasma marginale exerts a minimal effect on the tick transcriptome.
Arthropods transmit important infectious diseases of humans and animals. Importantly, replication and the development of pathogen infectivity are tightly linked to vector feeding on the mammalian host; thus analysis of the transcriptomes of both vector and pathogen during feeding is fundamental to understanding transmission. Using Anaplasma marginale infection of Rhipicephalusmicroplus as the experimental model, we tested three hypotheses exploring the temporal and organ-specific nature of the tick midgut and salivary gland transcriptomes during feeding and in response to infection. Numerous R. microplus genes were regulated in response to feeding and were differentially regulated between the midgut and salivary gland; additionally, there was a progression in regulated gene expression in the salivary gland over time. In contrast, relatively few tick genes were specifically regulated in response to A. marginale infection and these genes were predominantly annotated as hypothetical or were of unknown function. Notable among the genes with informative annotation was that several ribosomal proteins were down-regulated, suggesting that there may be a corresponding decrease in translation. The hypotheses that R. microplus midgut and salivary gland genes are differentially regulated and that the salivary gland transcriptome is dynamic over time were accepted. This is consistent with, and important for understanding the roles of, the two organs, the midgut serving as an initial site of uptake and replication while the salivary gland serves as the final site of replication and secretion. The nominal effect of A. marginale on the tick transcriptome in terms of numbers of regulated genes and fold of regulation supports the view that the vector–pathogen relationship is well established with minimal deleterious effect on the tick. The small set of predominantly hypothetical genes regulated by infection suggests that A. marginale is affecting a novel set of tick genes and may provide new opportunities for blocking transmission from the tick.
PMCID: PMC3114074  PMID: 21514300
Tick-borne disease; Ixodid; Rickettsial; Gene expression; Microarray
13.  An insight into the sialotranscriptome of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:450.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus, known as the brown dog tick, is a common ectoparasite of domestic dogs and can be found worldwide. R.sanguineus is recognized as the primary vector of the etiological agent of canine monocytic ehrlichiosis and canine babesiosis. Here we present the first description of a R. sanguineus salivary gland transcriptome by the production and analysis of 2,034 expressed sequence tags (EST) from two cDNA libraries, one consctructed using mRNA from dissected salivary glands from female ticks fed for 3-5 days (early to mid library, RsSGL1) and the another from ticks fed for 5 days (mid library, RsSGL2), identifying 1,024 clusters of related sequences.
Based on sequence similarities to nine different databases, we identified transcripts of genes that were further categorized according to function. The category of putative housekeeping genes contained ~56% of the sequences and had on average 2.49 ESTs per cluster, the secreted protein category contained 26.6% of the ESTs and had 2.47 EST's/clusters, while 15.3% of the ESTs, mostly singletons, were not classifiable, and were annotated as "unknown function". The secreted category included genes that coded for lipocalins, proteases inhibitors, disintegrins, metalloproteases, immunomodulatory and antiinflammatory proteins, as Evasins and Da-p36, as well as basic-tail and 18.3 kDa proteins, cement proteins, mucins, defensins and antimicrobial peptides. Comparison of the abundance of ESTs from similar contigs of the two salivary gland cDNA libraries allowed the identification of differentially expressed genes, such as genes coding for Evasins and a thrombin inhibitor, which were over expressed in the RsSGL1 (early to mid library) versus RsSGL2 (mid library), indicating their role in inhibition of inflammation at the tick feeding site from the very beginning of the blood meal. Conversely, sequences related to cement (64P), which function has been correlated with tick attachment, was largely expressed in the mid library.
Our survey provided an insight into the R. sanguineus sialotranscriptome, which can assist the discovery of new targets for anti-tick vaccines, as well as help to identify pharmacologically active proteins.
PMCID: PMC3091647  PMID: 20650005
14.  Expression of Equi Merozoite Antigen 2 during Development of Babesia equi in the Midgut and Salivary Gland of the Vector Tick Boophilus microplus 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(12):5803-5809.
Equi merozoite antigens 1 and 2 (EMA-1 and EMA-2) are Babesia equi proteins expressed on the parasite surface during infection in horses and are orthologues of proteins in Theileria spp., which are also tick-transmitted protozoal pathogens. We determined in this study whether EMA-1 and EMA-2 were expressed within the vector tick Boophilus microplus. B. equi transitions through multiple, morphologically distinct stages, including sexual stages, and these transitions culminate in the formation of infectious sporozoites in the tick salivary gland. EMA-2-positive B. equi stages in the midgut lumen and midgut epithelial cells of Boophilus microplus nymphs were identified by reactivity with monoclonal antibody 36/253.21. This monoclonal antibody also recognized B. equi in salivary glands of adult Boophilus microplus. In addition, quantification of B. equi in the mammalian host and vector tick indicated that the duration of tick feeding and parasitemia levels affected the percentage of nymphs that contained morphologically distinct B. equi organisms in the midgut. In contrast, there was no conclusive evidence that B. equi EMA-1 was expressed in either the Boophilus microplus midgut or salivary gland when monoclonal antibody 36/18.57 was used. The expression of B. equi EMA-2 in Boophilus microplus provides a marker for detecting the various development stages and facilitates the identification of novel stage-specific Babesia proteins for testing transmission-blocking immunity.
PMCID: PMC308990  PMID: 14662988
15.  Bm86 homologues and novel ATAQ proteins with multiple epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like domains from hard and soft ticks☆ 
International Journal for Parasitology  2010;40(14):1587-1597.
Graphical abstract
Tick control on livestock relies principally on the use of acaricides but the development of acaricide resistance and concerns for environmental pollution underscore the need for alternative control methods, for instance through the use of anti-tick vaccines. Two commercial vaccines based on the recombinant Bm86 protein from Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus ticks were developed. Partial protection of the Bm86 vaccine against other Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) and Hyalomma tick species suggests that the efficacy of a Bm86-based vaccine may be enhanced when based on the orthologous recombinant Bm86 antigen. We therefore identified and analysed the Bm86 homologues from species representing the main argasid and ixodid tick genera, including two from the prostriate Ixodes ricinus tick species. A novel protein from metastriate ticks with multiple epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like domains which is structurally related to Bm86 was identified by using a 3′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends (3′-RACE) method with a degenerate primer based on a highly conserved region of Bm86 and its orthologues. This second protein was named ATAQ after a part of its signature peptide. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR showed that ATAQ proteins are expressed in both midguts and Malpighian tubules, in contrast to Bm86 orthologues which are expressed exclusively in tick midguts. Furthermore, expression of this protein over the life stages of R. microplus and Rhipicephalus appendiculatus was more continuous compared with Bm86. Although a highly effective vaccine antigen, gene silencing of Bm86 by RNA interference (RNAi) produced only a weak phenotype. Similarly the RNAi phenotype of Rhipicephalus evertsi evertsi females in which the expression of Ree86, ReeATAQ or a combination of both genes was silenced by RNAi did not differ from a mock-injected control group. The vaccine potential of ATAQ proteins against tick infestations is yet to be evaluated.
PMCID: PMC2998001  PMID: 20647015
Bm86; Homologues; ATAQ; Tick; Vaccine; RNA interference; Expression profile
16.  Persistently Infected Horses Are Reservoirs for Intrastadial Tick-Borne Transmission of the Apicomplexan Parasite Babesia equi▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(8):3525-3529.
Tick-borne pathogens may be transmitted intrastadially and transstadially within a single vector generation as well as vertically between generations. Understanding the mode and relative efficiency of this transmission is required for infection control. In this study, we established that adult male Rhipicephalus microplus ticks efficiently acquire the protozoal pathogen Babesia equi during acute and persistent infections and transmit it intrastadially to naïve horses. Although the level of parasitemia during acquisition feeding affected the efficiency of the initial tick infection, infected ticks developed levels of ≥104 organisms/pair of salivary glands independent of the level of parasitemia during acquisition feeding and successfully transmitted them, indicating that replication within the tick compensated for any initial differences in infectious dose and exceeded the threshold for transmission. During the development of B. equi parasites in the salivary gland granular acini, the parasites expressed levels of paralogous surface proteins significantly different from those expressed by intraerythrocytic parasites from the mammalian host. In contrast to the successful intrastadial transmission, adult female R. microplus ticks that fed on horses with high parasitemia passed the parasite vertically into the eggs with low efficiency, and the subsequent generation (larvae, nymphs, and adults) failed to transmit B. equi parasites to naïve horses. The data demonstrated that intrastadial but not transovarial transmission is an efficient mode for B. equi transmission and that persistently infected horses are an important reservoir for transmission. Consequently, R. microplus male ticks and persistently infected horses should be targeted for disease control.
PMCID: PMC2493223  PMID: 18490466
17.  Global comparative analysis of ESTs from the southern cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:368.
The southern cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, is an economically important parasite of cattle and can transmit several pathogenic microorganisms to its cattle host during the feeding process. Understanding the biology and genomics of R. microplus is critical to developing novel methods for controlling these ticks.
We present a global comparative genomic analysis of a gene index of R. microplus comprised of 13,643 unique transcripts assembled from 42,512 expressed sequence tags (ESTs), a significant fraction of the complement of R. microplus genes. The source material for these ESTs consisted of polyA RNA from various tissues, lifestages, and strains of R. microplus, including larvae exposed to heat, cold, host odor, and acaricide. Functional annotation using RPS-Blast analysis identified conserved protein domains in the conceptually translated gene index and assigned GO terms to those database transcripts which had informative BlastX hits. Blast Score Ratio and SimiTri analysis compared the conceptual transcriptome of the R. microplus database to other eukaryotic proteomes and EST databases, including those from 3 ticks. The most abundant protein domains in BmiGI were also analyzed by SimiTri methodology.
These results indicate that a large fraction of BmiGI entries have no homologs in other sequenced genomes. Analysis with the PartiGene annotation pipeline showed 64% of the members of BmiGI could not be assigned GO annotation, thus minimal information is available about a significant fraction of the tick genome. This highlights the important insights in tick biology which are likely to result from a tick genome sequencing project. Global comparative analysis identified some tick genes with unexpected phylogenetic relationships which detailed analysis attributed to gene losses in some members of the animal kingdom. Some tick genes were identified which had close orthologues to mammalian genes. Members of this group would likely be poor choices as targets for development of novel tick control technology.
PMCID: PMC2100071  PMID: 17935616
18.  The Kunitz-Like Modulatory Protein Haemangin Is Vital for Hard Tick Blood-Feeding Success 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(7):e1000497.
Ticks are serious haematophagus arthropod pests and are only second to mosquitoes as vectors of diseases of humans and animals. The salivary glands of the slower feeding hard ticks such as Haemaphysalis longicornis are a rich source of bioactive molecules and are critical to their biologic success, yet distinct molecules that help prolong parasitism on robust mammalian hosts and achieve blood-meals remain unidentified. Here, we report on the molecular and biochemical features and precise functions of a novel Kunitz inhibitor from H. longicornis salivary glands, termed Haemangin, in the modulation of angiogenesis and in persistent blood-feeding. Haemangin was shown to disrupt angiogenesis and wound healing via inhibition of vascular endothelial cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis. Further, this compound potently inactivated trypsin, chymotrypsin, and plasmin, indicating its antiproteolytic potential on angiogenic cascades. Analysis of Haemangin-specific gene expression kinetics at different blood-feeding stages of adult ticks revealed a dramatic up-regulation prior to complete feeding, which appears to be functionally linked to the acquisition of blood-meals. Notably, disruption of Haemangin-specific mRNA by a reverse genetic tool significantly diminished engorgement of adult H. longicornis, while the knock-down ticks failed to impair angiogenesis in vivo. To our knowledge, we have provided the first insights into transcriptional responses of human microvascular endothelial cells to Haemangin. DNA microarray data revealed that Haemangin altered the expression of 3,267 genes, including those of angiogenic significance, further substantiating the antiangiogenic function of Haemangin. We establish the vital roles of Haemangin in the hard tick blood-feeding process. Moreover, our results provide novel insights into the blood-feeding strategies that enable hard ticks to persistently feed and ensure full blood-meals through the modulation of angiogenesis and wound healing processes.
Author Summary
Ticks are notorious ectoparasites that exclusively feed on a host's blood for a period of 10 days or longer. Upon blood-feeding, an adult female tick gains 100–200 times its body weight compared to its pre-feeding stage. Despite the host's armoury of rejection mechanisms, ticks manage to remain attached until a full blood-meal is ensured. The molecular machineries that make the tick a success with its feeding, however, remain unknown. We demonstrate that the Kunitz-like protein Haemangin, identified from the salivary glands of the tick Haemaphysalis longicornis, plays vital roles in blood-feeding success. Using both cell- and chick embryo–based bioassays, we have shown that Haemangin efficiently disrupted angiogenesis and wound healing processes, enabling ticks to remain attached and allowing persistent feeding. Additionally, in a rabbit model, we reveal that an elevated expression of Haemangin is associated with the acquisition of full blood-meals. Importantly, Haemangin-knockdown ticks fail to prevent angiogenesis in the host's tissues and consequently achieve only a poor blood-meal as compared to normal ticks. We conclude that Haemangin is vital for ticks' survival and can be a novel therapeutic target against ticks and tick-borne diseases, including tumor angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2701603  PMID: 19593376
19.  Rhipicephalus microplus salivary gland molecules induce differential CD86 expression in murine macrophages 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:103.
Tick parasitism is a major impediment for cattle production in many parts of the world. The southern cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, is an obligate hematophagous parasite of domestic and wild animals that serves as vector of infectious agents lethal to cattle. Tick saliva contains molecules evolved to modulate host innate and adaptive immune responses which facilitates blood feeding and pathogen transmission. Tick feeding promotes CD4 T cell polarization to a Th2 profile usually accompanied by down-regulation of Th1 cytokines through as yet undefined mechanisms. Co-stimulatory molecules on antigen presenting cells are central to development of T cell responses including Th1 and Th2 responses. Tick induced changes to antigen presenting cell signal transduction pathways are largely unknown. Here we document the ability of R. microplus salivary gland extracts (SGE) to effect differential CD86 expression.
We examined changes in co-stimulatory molecule expression in murine RAW 264.7 cells in response to R. microplus SGE exposure in the presence of the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) ligand, LPS. After 24 hrs, CD86, but not CD80, was preferentially up-regulated on mouse macrophage RAW 264.7 cells when treated with SGE and then LPS, but not SGE alone. CD80 and CD40 expression was increased with LPS, but the addition of SGE did not alter expression. Higher concentrations of SGE were less effective at increasing CD86 RNA expression. The addition of mitogen or extracellular kinase (MEK) inhibitor, PD98059, significantly reduced the ability for SGE to induce CD86 expression, indicating activation of MEK is necessary for SGE induced up-regulation.
Molecules in SGE of R. microplus have a concentration-dependent effect on differential up-regulation of CD86 in a macrophage cell line activated by the TLR4 ligand, LPS. This CD86 up-regulation is at least partially dependent on the ERK1/2 pathway and may serve to promote Th2 polarization of the immune response.
PMCID: PMC2993695  PMID: 21054882
20.  Proteome of Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick saliva induced by the secretagogues pilocarpine and dopamine 
Ticks and tick-borne diseases  2013;4(6):469-477.
One dimensional gel electrophoresis was used to separate proteins from the saliva of Rhipicephalus sanguineus female ticks fed on rabbits. Gel slices were subjected to tryptic digestion and analyzed by reversed-phase HPLC followed by MS/MS analysis. The data were compared to a database of salivary proteins of the same tick and to the predicted proteins of the host. Saliva was obtained by either pilocarpine or dopamine stimulation of partially-fed ticks. Electrophoretic separations of both yielded products that were identified by mass spectrometry, although the pilocarpine-derived sample was of much better quality. The majority of identified proteins were of rabbit origin, indicating the recycling of the host proteins in the tick saliva, including hemoglobin, albumin, haptoglobin, transferring, and a plasma serpin. The few proteins found that were previously associated with parasitism and blood feeding include 2 glycine-rich, cement-like proteins, 2 lipocalins, and a thyropin protease inhibitor. Among other of the 19 tick proteins identified, albeit with undefined roles, were SPARC and cyclophilin A. This catalog provides a resource that can be mined for secreted molecules that play a role in tick-host interactions.
PMCID: PMC3917560  PMID: 24029695
Proteome; Tick saliva; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Dopamine; Pilocarpine
21.  Differential salivary gland transcript expression profile in Ixodes scapularis nymphs upon feeding or flavivirus infection 
Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases  2012;3(1):18-26.
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.
PMCID: PMC3275779  PMID: 22309855
Tick vector; Ixodes scapularis; Nymph; Salivary gland; Gene expression; Feeding; Flavivirus
22.  Comparative microarray analysis of Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus expression profiles of larvae pre-attachment and feeding adult female stages on Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:437.
Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus is an obligate blood feeder which is host specific to cattle. Existing knowledge pertaining to the host or host breed effects on tick transcript expression profiles during the tick - host interaction is poor.
Global analysis of gene expression changes in whole R. microplus ticks during larval, pre-attachment and early adult stages feeding on Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle were compared using gene expression microarray analysis. Among the 13,601 R. microplus transcripts from BmiGI Version 2 we identified 297 high and 17 low expressed transcripts that were significantly differentially expressed between R. microplus feeding on tick resistant cattle [Bos indicus (Brahman)] compared to R. microplus feeding on tick susceptible cattle [Bos taurus (Holstein-Friesian)] (p ≤ 0.001). These include genes encoding enzymes involved in primary metabolism, and genes related to stress, defence, cell wall modification, cellular signaling, receptor, and cuticle formation. Microarrays were validated by qRT-PCR analysis of selected transcripts using three housekeeping genes as normalization controls.
The analysis of all tick stages under survey suggested a coordinated regulation of defence proteins, proteases and protease inhibitors to achieve successful attachment and survival of R. microplus on different host breeds, particularly Bos indicus cattle. R. microplus ticks demonstrate different transcript expression patterns when they encounter tick resistant and susceptible breeds of cattle. In this study we provide the first transcriptome evidence demonstrating the influence of tick resistant and susceptible cattle breeds on transcript expression patterns and the molecular physiology of ticks during host attachment and feeding.
The microarray data used in this analysis have been submitted to NCBI GEO database under accession number GSE20605
PMCID: PMC3224725  PMID: 20637126
23.  Haplotypes of the bovine IgG2 heavy gamma chain in tick-resistant and tick-susceptible breeds of cattle 
Immunogenetics  2011;63(5):319-324.
Bovines present contrasting, heritable phenotypes of infestations with the cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus. Tick salivary glands produce IgG-binding proteins (IGBPs) as a mechanism for escaping from host antibodies that these ectoparasites ingest during blood meals. Allotypes that occur in the constant region of IgG may differ in their capacity to bind with tick IGBPs; this may be reflected by the distribution of distinct allotypes according to phenotypes of tick infestations. In order to test this hypothesis, we investigated the frequency of haplotypes of bovine IgG2 among tick-resistant and tick-susceptible breeds of bovines. Sequencing of the gene coding for the heavy chain of IgG2 from 114 tick-resistant (Bos taurus indicus, Nelore breed) and tick-susceptible (B. t. taurus, Holstein breed) bovines revealed SNPs that generated 13 different haplotypes, of which 11 were novel and 5 were exclusive of Holstein and 3 of Nelore breeds. Alignment and modeling of coded haplotypes for hinge regions of the bovine IgG2 showed that they differ in the distribution of polar and hydrophobic amino acids and in shape according to the distribution of these amino acids. We also found that there was an association between genotypes of the constant region of the IgG2 heavy chain with phenotypes of tick infestations. These findings open the possibility of investigating if certain IgG allotypes hinder the function of tick IGBPs. If so, they may be markers for breeding for resistance against tick infestations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00251-011-0515-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3068256  PMID: 21301827
Bovine IgG2; Allotypes; Haplotypes; Hinge region; Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus
24.  Tick parasites of rodents in Romania: host preferences, community structure and geographical distribution 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:266.
Ticks are among the most important vectors of zoonotic diseases in temperate regions of Europe, with widespread distribution and high densities, posing an important medical risk. Most ticks feed on a variety of progressively larger hosts, with a large number of small mammal species typically harbouring primarily the immature stages. However, there are certain Ixodidae that characteristically attack micromammals also during their adult stage. Rodents are widespread hosts of ticks, important vectors and competent reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens. Micromammal-tick associations have been poorly studied in Romania, and our manuscript shows the results of a large scale study on tick infestation epidemiology in rodents from Romania.
Rodents were caught using snap-traps in a variety of habitats in Romania, between May 2010 and November 2011. Ticks were individually collected from these rodents and identified to species and development stage. Frequency, mean intensity, prevalence and its 95% confidence intervals were calculated using the EpiInfo 2000 software. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.
We examined 423 rodents (12 species) collected from six counties in Romania for the presence of ticks. Each collected tick was identified to species level and the following epidemiological parameters were calculated: prevalence, mean intensity and mean abundance. The total number of ticks collected from rodents was 483, with eight species identified: Ixodes ricinus, I. redikorzevi, I. apronophorus, I. trianguliceps, I. laguri, Dermacentor marginatus, Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Haemaphysalis sulcata. The overall prevalence of tick infestation was 29.55%, with a mean intensity of 3.86 and a mean abundance of 1.14. Only two polyspecific infestations were found: I. ricinus + I. redikorzevi and I. ricinus + D. marginatus.
Our study showed a relatively high diversity of ticks parasitizing rodents in Romania. The most common tick in rodents was I. ricinus, followed by I. redikorzevi. Certain rodents seem to host a significantly higher number of tick species than others, the most important within this view being Apodemus flavicollis and Microtus arvalis. The same applies for the overall prevalence of tick parasitism, with some species more commonly infected (M. arvalis, A. uralensis, A. flavicollis and M. glareolus) than others. Two rodent species (Mus musculus, Rattus norvegicus) did not harbour ticks at all. Based on our results we may assert that rodents generally can act as good indicators for assessing the distribution of certain tick species.
PMCID: PMC3514150  PMID: 23171665
Hard-ticks; Ixodidae; Rodents; Micromammals; Romania
25.  IrSPI, a Tick Serine Protease Inhibitor Involved in Tick Feeding and Bartonella henselae Infection 
Ixodes ricinus is the most widespread and abundant tick in Europe, frequently bites humans, and is the vector of several pathogens including those responsible for Lyme disease, Tick-Borne Encephalitis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and bartonellosis. These tick-borne pathogens are transmitted to vertebrate hosts via tick saliva during blood feeding, and tick salivary gland (SG) factors are likely implicated in transmission. In order to identify such tick factors, we characterized the transcriptome of female I. ricinus SGs using next generation sequencing techniques, and compared transcriptomes between Bartonella henselae-infected and non-infected ticks. High-throughput sequencing of I. ricinus SG transcriptomes led to the generation of 24,539 isotigs. Among them, 829 and 517 transcripts were either significantly up- or down-regulated respectively, in response to bacterial infection. Searches based on sequence identity showed that among the differentially expressed transcripts, 161 transcripts corresponded to nine groups of previously annotated tick SG gene families, while the others corresponded to genes of unknown function. Expression patterns of five selected genes belonging to the BPTI/Kunitz family of serine protease inhibitors, the tick salivary peptide group 1 protein, the salp15 super-family, and the arthropod defensin family, were validated by qRT-PCR. IrSPI, a member of the BPTI/Kunitz family of serine protease inhibitors, showed the highest up-regulation in SGs in response to Bartonella infection. IrSPI silencing impaired tick feeding, as well as resulted in reduced bacterial load in tick SGs. This study provides a comprehensive analysis of I. ricinus SG transcriptome and contributes significant genomic information about this important disease vector. This in-depth knowledge will enable a better understanding of the molecular interactions between ticks and tick-borne pathogens, and identifies IrSPI, a candidate to study now in detail to estimate its potentialities as vaccine against the ticks and the pathogens they transmit.
Author Summary
I. ricinus is the most common tick species in Europe and the vector for several pathogens, including bacteria from the Bartonella genus. The mechanisms by which ticks modulate their gene expression in response to pathogen infection are poorly understood. In this report, we compared the differential expression of genes expressed in tick salivary glands during B. henselae infection using next generation sequencing techniques. This approach identified 829 and 517 transcripts either significantly up- or down-regulated respectively, in response to bacterial infection. Among them, 161 transcripts corresponded to nine gene family groups previously described in ticks. By silencing the most up-regulated transcript (IrSPI), we demonstrated its implication in both tick feeding and bacterial infection of tick salivary glands. This study demonstrates that a molecular dialogue exists between pathogens and their arthropod vectors and provides, with IrSPI, a candidate to study now in detail to estimate its potentialities as vaccine against the ticks and the pathogens they transmit.
PMCID: PMC4109860  PMID: 25057911

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