Molecular individuality and adaptation of the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus in changed feeding environments.
Wang H., Kaufman WR., Cui WW., Nuttall PA.
The tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus Neumann (Acari: Ixodidae) naturally infests many host species. However, the mechanisms that enable it to feed on such a wide range of hosts are unclear. One possibility is that a tick population maintains molecular (genotypic and/or phenotypic) diversity among individuals such that individuals vary in their competency in taking bloodmeals under different feeding conditions. As a first step in testing this hypothesis, we showed that the polymorphism of salivary gland proteins, previously demonstrated in unfed ticks, was maintained during feeding on guinea-pigs. We then compared feeding performance under standard laboratory rearing conditions: one instar (adults or nymphs) feeding on guinea-pigs, with three changed conditions: (1) two instars (adults and nymphs) feeding together on guinea-pigs; (2) one instar (adults or nymphs) feeding on hamsters; and (3) two instars (adults and nymphs) feeding together on hamsters. The mean engorged weight of adult females was significantly reduced under all changed conditions, indicating that most of the adult individuals were significantly challenged by the changed conditions. However, some individuals achieved successful engorgement, indicating competence to the changed condition, and demonstrating variation in adaptive ability among individuals. Engorged females produced egg masses positively correlated to the engorged weights. More interestingly, the correlation coefficient (R) increased when feeding condition was changed. This may lead to more efficient selection for population adaptation under the changed conditions. As the feeding success of ixodid ticks depends on the efficiency of the cocktail of immunomodulatory saliva, the relevance of the polymorphism of salivary gland proteins and host adaptation is discussed.