Ixodes scapularis transmits the agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis, among other pathogens. The mechanisms used by the tick to control Anaplasma phagocytophilum are not known. We demonstrate that the I. scapularis Janus kinase (JAK)–signaling transducer activator of transcription (STAT) pathway plays a critical role in A. phagocytophilum infection of ticks. The A. phagocytophilum burden increases in salivary glands and hemolymph when the JAK-STAT pathway is suppressed by RNA interference. The JAK-STAT pathway exerts its anti-Anaplasma activity presumably through STAT-regulated effectors. A salivary gland gene family encoding 5.3-kDa antimicrobial peptides is highly induced upon A. phagocytophilum infection of tick salivary glands. Gene expression and electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that the 5.3-kDa antimicrobial peptide–encoding genes are regulated by tick STAT. Silencing of these genes increased A. phagocytophilum infection of tick salivary glands and transmission to mammalian host. These data suggest that the JAK-STAT signaling pathway plays a key role in controlling A. phagocytophilum infection in ticks by regulating the expression of antimicrobial peptides.
Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged tick, vectors several human pathogens including Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease in North America. Pathogen transmission to the vertebrate host occurs when infected ticks feed on the mammalian host to obtain a blood meal. Efforts to understand how the tick confronts host hemostatic mechanisms and imbibes a fluid blood meal have largely focused on the anticoagulation strategies of tick saliva. The blood meal that enters the tick gut remains in a fluid state for several days during the process of feeding, and the role of the tick gut in maintaining the blood-meal fluid is not understood. We now demonstrate that the tick gut produces a potent inhibitor of thrombin, a key enzyme in the mammalian coagulation cascade. Chromatographic fractionation of engorged tick gut proteins identified one predominant thrombin inhibitory activity associated with an approximately 18 kDa protein, henceforth referred to as Ixophilin. The ixophilin gene was preferentially transcribed in the guts of feeding nymphs. Expression began after 24 hours of feeding, coincident with the flow of host blood into the tick gut. Immunity against Ixophilin delayed tick feeding, and decreased feeding efficiency significantly. Surprisingly, immunity against Ixophilin resulted in increased Borrelia burgdorferi transmission to the host, possibly due to delayed feeding and increased transmission opportunity. These observations illuminate the potential drawbacks of targeting individual tick proteins in a functional suite. They also underscore the need to identify the “anticoagulome” of the tick gut, and to prioritize a critical subset of anticoagulants that could be targeted to efficiently thwart tick feeding, and block pathogen transmission to the vertebrate host.
Lyme borreliosis is a zoonotic disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato bacteria transmitted to humans and domestic animals by the bite of an Ixodes spp. tick (deer tick). Despite improvements in diagnostic tests and public awareness of Lyme disease, the reported cases have increased over the past decade to approximately 30,000 per year. Limitations and failed public acceptance of a human vaccine, comprised of the outer surface A (OspA) lipoprotein of B. burgdorferi, led to its demise, yet current research has opened doors to new strategies for protection against Lyme disease. In this review we discuss the enzootic cycle of B. burgdorferi, and the unique opportunities it poses to block infection or transmission at different levels. We present the correlates of protection for this infectious disease, the pros and cons of past vaccination strategies, and new paradigms for future vaccine design that would include elements of both the vector and the pathogen.
Lyme disease; vaccine; reservoir; vector; tick; Ixodes scapularis; Borrelia burgdorferi
The maintenance of Borrelia burgdorferi in its complex tick-mammalian enzootic life cycle is dependent on the organism's adaptation to its diverse niches. To this end, the RpoN-RpoS regulatory pathway in B. burgdorferi plays a central role in microbial survival and Lyme disease pathogenesis by up- or down-regulating the expression of a number of virulence-associated outer membrane lipoproteins in response to key environmental stimuli. Whereas a number of studies have reported on the expression of RpoS and its target genes, a more comprehensive understanding of when activation of the RpoN-RpoS pathway occurs, and when induction of the pathway is most relevant to specific stage(s) in the life cycle of B. burgdorferi, has been lacking.
Herein, we examined the expression of rpoS and key lipoprotein genes regulated by RpoS, including ospC, ospA, and dbpA, throughout the entire tick-mammal infectious cycle of B. burgdorferi. Our data revealed that transcription of rpoS, ospC, and dbpA is highly induced in nymphal ticks when taking a blood meal. The RpoN-RpoS pathway remains active during the mammalian infection phase, as indicated by the sustained transcription of rpoS and dbpA in B. burgdorferi within mouse tissues following borrelial dissemination. However, dbpA transcription levels in fed larvae and intermolt larvae suggested that an additional layer of control likely is involved in the expression of the dbpBA operon. Our results also provide further evidence for the downregulation of ospA expression during mammalian infection, and the repression of ospC at later phases of mammalian infection by B. burgdorferi.
Our study demonstrates that the RpoN-RpoS regulatory pathway is initially activated during the tick transmission of B. burgdorferi to its mammalian host, and is sustained during mammalian infection.
The Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, is primarily transmitted to vertebrates by Ixodes ticks. The classical and alternative complement pathways are important in Borrelia eradication by the vertebrate host. We recently identified a tick salivary protein, designated P8 that reduced complement-mediated killing of Borrelia. We now discover that P8 interferes with the human lectin complement cascade resulting in impaired neutrophil phagocytosis and chemotaxis, and diminished Borrelia lysis. Therefore, P8 was renamed the lectin complement pathway inhibitor (TSLPI). TSLPI-silenced ticks, or ticks exposed to TSLPI-immune mice, were hampered in Borrelia transmission. Moreover, Borrelia acquisition and persistence in tick midguts was impaired in ticks feeding on TSLPI-immunized B. burgdorferi-infected mice. Together, our findings suggest an essential role for the lectin complement cascade in Borrelia eradication and demonstrate how a vector-borne pathogen co-opts a vector protein to facilitate early mammalian infection and vector colonization.
MBL; lectin; ficolin; tick immunity; Borrelia burgdorferi; complement; vaccine
The persistence of symptoms in Lyme disease patients following antibiotic therapy, and their causes, continue to be a matter of intense controversy. The studies presented here explore antibiotic efficacy using nonhuman primates. Rhesus macaques were infected with B. burgdorferi and a portion received aggressive antibiotic therapy 4–6 months later. Multiple methods were utilized for detection of residual organisms, including the feeding of lab-reared ticks on monkeys (xenodiagnosis), culture, immunofluorescence and PCR. Antibody responses to the B. burgdorferi-specific C6 diagnostic peptide were measured longitudinally and declined in all treated animals. B. burgdorferi antigen, DNA and RNA were detected in the tissues of treated animals. Finally, small numbers of intact spirochetes were recovered by xenodiagnosis from treated monkeys. These results demonstrate that B. burgdorferi can withstand antibiotic treatment, administered post-dissemination, in a primate host. Though B. burgdorferi is not known to possess resistance mechanisms and is susceptible to the standard antibiotics (doxycycline, ceftriaxone) in vitro, it appears to become tolerant post-dissemination in the primate host. This finding raises important questions about the pathogenicity of antibiotic-tolerant persisters and whether or not they can contribute to symptoms post-treatment.
Fucosylated structures participate in a wide range of pathological processes in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The impact of fucose on microbial pathogenesis, however, has been less appreciated in arthropods of medical relevance. Thus, we used the tick-borne bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum – the agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis to understand these processes. Here we show that A. phagocytophilum uses α1,3-fucose to colonize ticks. We demonstrate that A. phagocytophilum modulates the expression of α1,3-fucosyltransferases and gene silencing significantly reduces colonization of tick cells. Acquisition but not transmission of A. phagocytophilum was affected when α1,3-fucosyltransferases were silenced during tick feeding. Our results uncover a novel mechanism of pathogen colonization in arthropods. Decoding mechanisms of pathogen invasion in ticks might expedite the development of new strategies to interfere with the life cycle of A. phagocytophilum.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis, one of the most common tick-borne diseases in North America. This unusual obligate intracellular pathogen selectively persists within polymorphonuclear leukocytes. In this study, using the yeast surrogate model we identified an A. phagocytophilum virulence protein, AptA (Anaplasma phagocytophilum toxin A), that activates mammalian Erk1/2 mitogen activated protein kinase. This activation is important for A. phagocytophilum survival within human neutrophils. AptA interacts with the intermediate filament protein vimentin, which is essential for A. phagocytophilum-induced Erk1/2 activation and infection. A. phagocytophilum infection reorganizes vimentin around the bacterial inclusion, thereby contributing to intracellular survival. These observations reveal a major role for the bacterial protein, AptA, and the host protein, vimentin, in the activation of Erk1/2 during A. phagocytophilum infection.
Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, is transmitted to humans by bite of Ixodes scapularis ticks. The mechanisms by which the bacterium is transmitted from vector to host are poorly understood. In this study, we show that the F(ab)2 fragments of BBE31, a B.burgdorferi outer-surface lipoprotein, interfere with the migration of the spirochete from tick gut into the hemolymph during tick feeding. The decreased hemolymph infection results in lower salivary glands infection, and consequently attenuates mouse infection by tick-transmitted B. burgdorferi. Using a yeast surface display approach, a tick gut protein named TRE31 was identified to interact with BBE31. Silencing tre31 also decreased the B. burgdorferi burden in the tick hemolymph. Delineating the specific spirochete and arthropod ligands required for B. burgdorferi movement in the tick may lead to new strategies to interrupt the life cycle of the Lyme disease agent.
Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne illness in North America, is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Currently, spirochete and tick molecules that facilitate Borrelia migration within the vector, a key step for mammalian infection by tick-transmitted spirochetes, have not yet been identified. In this study, we show that F(ab)2 fragments of BBE31, a B.burgdorferi outer-surface lipoprotein, interfere with the spirochete migration from the tick gut into the hemolymph. Our results indicated that decreased hemolymph infection by blocking BBE31 resulted in lower salivary glands infection, which eventually attenuated murine infection by tick-transmitted B.burgdorferi. We also found that a tick gut protein TRE31 enables Borrelia movement by interacting with BBE31. This finding provides novel insights into the transmission of spirochete within the vector and provides potential vaccine targets to block the microbial life cycle within the vector.
Repeated exposure of rabbits and other animals to ticks results in acquired resistance or immunity to subsequent tick bites and is partially elicited by antibodies directed against tick antigens. In this study we demonstrate the utility of a yeast surface display approach to identify tick salivary antigens that react with tick-immune serum. We constructed an Ixodes scapularis nymphal salivary gland yeast surface display library and screened the library with nymph-immune rabbit sera and identified five salivary antigens. Four of these proteins, designated P8, P19, P23 and P32, had a predicted signal sequence. We generated recombinant (r) P8, P19 and P23 in a Drosophila expression system for functional and immunization studies. rP8 showed anti-complement activity and rP23 demonstrated anti-coagulant activity. Ixodes scapularis feeding was significantly impaired when nymphs were fed on rabbits immunized with a cocktail of rP8, rP19 and rP23, a hall mark of tick-immunity. These studies also suggest that these antigens may serve as potential vaccine candidates to thwart tick feeding.
Ticks are distributed worldwide and affect human and animal health by transmitting diverse infectious agents. Effective vaccines against most tick-borne pathogens are not currently available. In this study, we characterized a tick histamine release factor (tHRF) from Ixodes scapularis and addressed the vaccine potential of this antigen in the context of tick engorgement and B. burgdorferi transmission. Results from western blotting and quantitative Reverse Transcription-PCR showed that tHRF is secreted in tick saliva, and upregulated in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected ticks. Further, the expression of tHRF was coincident with the rapid feeding phase of the tick, suggesting a role for tHRF in tick engorgement and concomitantly, for efficient B. burgdorferi transmission. Silencing tHRF by RNA interference (RNAi) significantly impaired tick feeding and decreased B. burgdorferi burden in mice. Interfering with tHRF by actively immunizing mice with recombinant tHRF, or passively transferring tHRF antiserum, also markedly reduced the efficiency of tick feeding and B. burgdorferi burden in mice. Recombinant tHRF was able to bind to host basophils and stimulate histamine release. Therefore, we speculate that tHRF might function in vivo to modulate vascular permeability and increase blood flow to the tick bite-site, facilitating tick engorgement. These findings suggest that blocking tHRF might offer a viable strategy to complement ongoing efforts to develop vaccines to block tick feeding and transmission of tick-borne pathogens.
Ticks are distributed worldwide and affect human and animal health by transmitting diverse infectious agents. Safe and effective vaccines against most tick-borne pathogens are not currently available. Typical vaccines target microbes directly, using extracts of the organism, or recombinant antigens as the immunogen; the transmission of tick-borne pathogens can also theoretically be prevented by interfering with the ability of ticks to feed on a mammalian host. In this study, we have characterized a putative histamine release factor (tHRF) from I. scapularis ticks, the predominant vector of B. burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease in North America. Our results suggested that tHRF is presented in tick saliva and critical for tick feeding; blocking tHRF markedly reduced the efficiency of tick feeding, and reduced the B. burgdorferi burden in mice. This finding provides novel insights into the molecular mechanisms of tick feeding and provides a potential vaccine target to block tick feeding and pathogen transmission.
Traditionally, vaccines directly target a pathogen or microbial toxin. Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is a tick-borne illness for which a human vaccine is not currently available. B. burgdorferi binds a tick salivary protein, Salp15, during transmission from the vector, and this interaction facilitates infection of mice. We now show that Salp15-antiserum significantly protected mice from B. burgdorferi infection. Salp15-antiserum also markedly enhanced the protective capacity of antibodies against B. burgdorferi antigens, such as OspA or OspC. Mice actively immunized with Salp15 were also significantly protected from tick-borne Borrelia. In vitro assays showed that Salp15-antiserum increased the clearance of Salp15-coated B. burgdorferi by phagocytes, suggesting a mechanism of action. Vaccination with a vector molecule that a microbe requires for infection of the mammalian host suggests a new strategy for the prevention of Lyme disease, and this paradigm may be applicable to numerous arthropod-borne pathogens of medical importance.
Lyme disease; Ixodes ticks; vaccine; Salp15; antibody
Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, is recognized by Toll-like receptor (TLR) 1 and 2 heterodimers. Microarray analysis of in vivo B. burgdorferi gene expression in murine skin showed that several genes were altered in TLR1/2-deficient animals compared with wild-type mice. For example, expression of bbe21 (a gene involved in B. burgdorferi lp25 plasmid maintenance) and bb0665 (a gene encoding a glycosyl transferase) were higher in TLR1/2-deficient mice than in control animals. In contrast, messenger RNA levels for bb0731 (a spoJ-like gene) and bba74 (a gene encoding a periplasmic protein) were lower in TLR1/2-deficient mice than in wild-type animals. The expression profiles of some of these genes were altered similarly in B. burgdorferi– infected ticks fed on control or TLR1/2-deficient mice. Quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis supported the microarray analysis and suggested that spirochete gene expression is altered by the milieu created by specific host TLRs, both in the murine host and in the arthropod vector.
The saliva of hematophagous arthropods contains potent anti-inflammatory and antihemostatic activities that promote acquisition of the blood meal and enhance infection with pathogens. We have shown that polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) treated with the saliva of the tick Ixodes scapularis have reduced expression of β2 integrins, impaired PMN adherence, and reduced killing of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. Here we describe two Ixodes proteins that are induced upon tick feeding and expressed predominantly in the salivary glands. Using saliva harvested from ticks with reduced levels of ISL 929 and ISL 1373 through targeted RNA interference knockdown, as well as purified recombinant proteins, we show the effects of these proteins on downregulation of PMN integrins and inhibition of the production of O2− by PMN in vitro. Mice immunized with ISL 929/1373 had increased numbers of PMN at the site of tick attachment and a lower spirochete burden in the skin and joints 21 days after infection compared to control-immunized animals. Our results suggest that ISL 929 and ISL 1373 contribute to the inhibition of PMN functions shown previously with tick saliva and support important roles for these inhibitory proteins in the modulation of PMN function in vivo.
In North America, the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, an obligate haematophagus arthropod, is a vector of several human pathogens including Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent. In this report, we show that the tick salivary gland transcriptome and proteome is dynamic and changes during the process of engorgement. We demonstrate, using a guinea pig model of I. scapularis feeding and B. burgdorferi transmission, that immunity directed against salivary proteins expressed in the first 24 h of tick attachment — and not later — is sufficient to evoke all the hallmarks of acquired tick-immunity, to thwart tick feeding and also to impair Borrelia transmission. Defining this subset of proteins will promote a mechanistic understanding of novel I. scapularis proteins critical for the initiation of tick feeding and for Borrelia transmission.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the agent of human anaplasmosis, the second most common tick-borne illness in the United States. This pathogen, which is closely related to obligate intracellular organisms in the genera Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma, persists in ticks and mammalian hosts; however, the mechanisms for survival in the arthropod are not known. We now show that A. phagocytophilum induces expression of the Ixodes scapularis salp16 gene in the arthropod salivary glands during vector engorgement. RNA interference–mediated silencing of salp16 gene expression interfered with the survival of A. phagocytophilum that entered ticks fed on A. phagocytophilum–infected mice. A. phagocytophilum migrated normally from A. phagocytophilum–infected mice to the gut of engorging salp16-deficient ticks, but up to 90% of the bacteria that entered the ticks were not able to successfully infect I. scapularis salivary glands. These data demonstrate the specific requirement of a pathogen for a tick salivary protein to persist within the arthropod and provide a paradigm for understanding how Rickettsia-like pathogens are maintained within vectors.
Borrelia burgdorferi gene expression within the guts of engorging Ixodes scapularis ticks was examined by use of differential immunoscreening and differential expression with a customized amplified library. Fourteen chromosomal genes involved in energy metabolism, substrate transport, and signal transduction and 10 (4 chromosomal and 6 plasmid) genes encoding putative lipoproteins and periplasmic proteins were preferentially expressed in engorging ticks. These data demonstrate a new approach to the global analysis of B. burgdorferi genes that are preferentially expressed within the vector during feeding.