A secreted cystatin from the tick Haemaphysalis longicornis and its distinct expression patterns in relation to innate immunity

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Jul;36(7):527-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2006.03.003. Epub 2006 Mar 27.


Proteins capable of selective and specific inhibition of cysteine protease have been identified as cystatins and are isolated from a variety of microbes and tissues of animals and plants. The physiological function of these proteins has been proposed to be the regulation of protein turnover and defense against pathogens as well as the balance of the host-parasite immune relationship. Genes encoding cystatins have been found in several species of ticks, but the function of cystatin in ticks is not understood. We cloned a gene encoding cystatin from tick H. longicornis and designated it as Hlcyst-2 (H. longicornis cystatin-2). Its full-length cDNA is 569 bp, and it encodes a putative 133 amino acid protein with an obvious signal peptide. Sequence analysis demonstrated that it has significant homology with the known cystatin. The recombinant protein was expressed in a GST-fused soluble form in Escherichia coli and purified by affinity chromatography. The inhibitory activity of the recombinant protein against papain, cathepsin L, and cathepsin B was identified by fluorogenic substrate analysis. Cystatin was mostly expressed in the tick midgut and hemocyte. Blood feeding induced significantly increased expression in the midgut. Real-time PCR confirmed that LPS-injected adult ticks expressed Hlcyst-2 1.6 more times than the PBS-injected control; Babesia gibsoni-infected larvae ticks expressed Hlcyst-2 1.8 more times than normal larvae ticks. The recombinant protein also showed a significant growth-inhibitory effect on Babesia bovis cultured in vitro. These results indicated this cystatin Hlcyst-2 is involved in tick innate immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromatography, Affinity
  • Cystatins / chemistry
  • Cystatins / genetics
  • Cystatins / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Gene Expression
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Ticks / growth & development
  • Ticks / immunology
  • Ticks / metabolism*


  • Cystatins
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary