Ixodes scapularis: effects of repeated infestations with pathogen-free nymphs on macrophage and T lymphocyte cytokine responses of BALB/c and C3H/HeN mice

Exp Parasitol. 1999 Aug;92(4):239-48. doi: 10.1006/expr.1999.4426.


Schoeler, G. B., Manweiler, S. A., and Wikel, S. K. 1999. Ixodes scapularis: Effects of repeated infestations with pathogen-free nymphs on macrophage and T lymphocyte cytokine responses of BALB/c and C3H/HeN mice. Experimental Parasitology 92, 239-248. Ixodes scapularis is the principal vector in the United States of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis, the human granulocytic ehrichiosis agent, and Babesia microti. Infestation with I. scapularis nymphs has previously been shown to modulate host T lymphocyte cytokine production. Tick-induced host immunomodulation is increasingly recognized as a contributing factor in successful transmission and/or establishment of tick-borne pathogens. This study was conducted to determine the effects of repeated infestations with pathogen-free I. scapularis nymphs on the production of the macrophage cytokines interleukin (IL)-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha and the T lymphocyte cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, and interferon-gamma in both BALB/c and C3H/HeN mice. The pattern of T lymphocyte cytokine production was evaluated to determine if repeated tick infestation polarizes the immune response toward a Th-1 or Th-2 cytokine profile. Female BALB/c and C3H/HeN mice were infested one to four times with pathogen-free I. scapularis nymphs, with a 14-day tick-free period between each exposure. After each infestation, tick biology parameters were measured and macrophage and T lymphocyte cytokine production was assessed. Elaboration of T lymphocyte and macrophage cytokines was quantitated by antigen capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Acquired resistance to I. scapularis feeding was not developed by either mouse strain. Significant differences in cytokine production were observed between infested and noninfested mice, as well as between the two mouse strains, following tick infestation. Infestation of both strains with pathogen-free I. scapularis results in a polarization of the host immune response toward a Th-2, anti-inflammatory pattern, with a corresponding suppression of Th-1 responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukins / biosynthesis
  • Ixodes / growth & development
  • Ixodes / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Nymph / immunology
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Tick Infestations / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma