Binding and Storage of Heme by Vitellin From the Cattle Tick, Boophilus Microplus

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Dec;32(12):1805-11. doi: 10.1016/s0965-1748(02)00162-5.


We have previously shown (, Curr. Biol. 9, 703-706) that the cattle tick Boophilus microplus does not synthesize heme, relying solely on the recovery of the heme from the diet to make all its hemeproteins. Here we present evidence that Vitellin (VN(1)), the main tick yolk protein, is a reservoir of heme for embryo development. VN was isolated from eggs at different days throughout embryogenesis. Immediately after oviposition, Boophilus VN contains approximately one mol of heme/mol of protein. During embryo development about one third of egg VN is degraded. The remaining VN molecules bind part of the heme released. These results suggest that VN functions as a heme reservoir, binding any free heme that exceeds the amount needed for development. In vitro measurement of the binding of heme to VN showed that each VN molecule binds up to 31 heme molecules. The association of heme with VN strongly inhibits heme-induced lipid peroxidation, suggesting that binding of heme is an important antioxidant mechanism to protect embryo cells from oxidative damage. This mechanism allows this hematophagous arthropod to safely store heme obtained from a blood meal inside their eggs for future use. Taken together our data suggest that, besides its known roles, VN also plays additional functions as a heme deposit and an antioxidant protective molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / parasitology
  • Egg Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Insect Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Oviposition
  • Ovum / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Ticks / metabolism*


  • Egg Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Heme