Identification and characterization of proteins in the Amblyomma americanum tick cement cone

Int J Parasitol. 2018 Mar;48(3-4):211-224. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2017.08.018. Epub 2017 Dec 16.


The adaptation of hard ticks to feed for long periods is facilitated by the cement cone, which securely anchors the tick mouthparts onto host skin and protects the tick from being groomed off by the host. Thus, preventing tick cement deposition is an attractive target for the development of innovative tick control. We used LC-MS/MS sequencing to identify 160 Amblyomma americanum tick cement proteins that include glycine-rich proteins (GRP, 19%), protease inhibitors (12%), proteins of unknown function (11%), mucin (4%), detoxification, storage, and lipocalin at 1% each, and housekeeping proteins (50%). Spatiotemporal transcription analysis showing mRNA expression in multiple tick organs and transcript abundance increasing with feeding suggest that selected GRPs (n = 13) regulate multiple tick feeding functions, being classified as constitutively expressed (CE), feeding induced (FI), and up-regulated with feeding (UR). We show that transcription of CE GRPs is likely under the control of tick appetence associated factors in that mRNA abundance increased several thousand fold in 1 week old adult ticks, the time period that coincides with tick attainment of appetence. Given the high number of targets, we synthesized and injected unfed ticks with combinatorial (co) double stranded (ds)RNA and disrupted GRP mRNA in clusters according to similar transcription patterns: CE (n = 3), FI, (n = 4), and UR (n = 6) to streamline the work. Our data suggest that CE and FI GRPs are important for maintenance of the tick feeding site in that reddening and subsequent bleeding were observed around the mouthparts of CE and FI GRP co-dsRNA injected ticks during feeding. Furthermore, although not significantly different, indices for blood meal size and fecundity were apparently reduced in FI and UR ticks. We discuss our data with reference to A. americanum tick feeding physiology.

Keywords: Amblyomma americanum; Combinatorial RNAi silencing; LC-MS/MS sequencing; Tick attachment; Tick cement cone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Arthropod Proteins / analysis*
  • Arthropod Proteins / chemistry
  • Chickens
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Female
  • Ixodidae / chemistry*
  • Ixodidae / genetics
  • Ixodidae / physiology
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Transcriptome


  • Arthropod Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Messenger