Differential salivary gland transcript expression profile in Ixodes scapularis nymphs upon feeding or flavivirus infection

Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2012 Feb;3(1):18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2011.09.003. Epub 2012 Jan 2.


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 response to feeding. 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / genetics*
  • Arachnid Vectors / physiology
  • Arachnid Vectors / virology
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Tick-Borne / physiology*
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / transmission
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / virology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Gene Library
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / genetics*
  • Ixodes / physiology
  • Ixodes / virology
  • Mice
  • Nymph / genetics
  • Nymph / physiology
  • Nymph / virology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • Salivary Glands / physiology
  • Salivary Glands / virology
  • Time Factors


  • DNA, Complementary
  • RNA