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Ticks are obligatory blood-feeding arthropods that secrete various immunomodulatory molecules to antagonize host inflammatory and immune responses. Cytokines play an important role in regulating these responses. We investigated the extent to which ticks interact with the sophisticated cytokine network by comparing the effect of salivary gland extracts (SGE) of 3 ixodid tick species, Dermacentor reticulatus, Amblyomma variegatum and Ixodes ricinus, all of which are important vectors of tick-borne pathogens. Using specific ELISAs, anti-cytokine activity was demonstrated with 7 cytokines: IL-8, MCP-1, MIP-1alpha, RANTES, eotaxin, IL-2 and IL-4. The results varied between species, and between adult males and females of the same species. Relatively high activity levels were detected in saliva of female D. reticulatus, confirming that the observed anti-cytokine activities are an integral part of tick saliva secreted into the host. Results with fractionated SGE indicated that from 2 to 6 putative cytokine binding molecules are produced, depending on species and sex. Binding ability of SGE molecules was verified by cross-linking with radio-isotope labelled MIP-1alpha. By targeting different cytokines, ixodid ticks can manipulate the cytokine network, which will greatly facilitate blood-feeding and provide a gateway for tick-borne pathogens that helps explain why ticks are such efficient and effective disease vectors.


Journal article



Publication Date





333 - 342


Animals, Arachnid Vectors, Cytokines, Female, Ixodidae, Male, Protein Binding, Saliva