Immunoglobulin-binding proteins in ticks: new target for vaccine development against a blood-feeding parasite.
Wang H., Nuttall PA.
Humans have a long history of trying to control ticks. At first, attempts focused on modifying the habitat, whereas later efforts relied heavily on the use of chemicals. Current research is directed at finding a vaccine against ticks. A strategy of targeting 'concealed antigens' succeeded with the first commercialised vaccine against the cattle tick Boophilus microplus. However, vaccine development against other tick species appears unsatisfactory to date. Vaccination depends on a specific antibody-mediated immunoreaction that damages the parasite. Immunoglobulin molecules of vertebrate hosts can pass through gut barriers into the haemolymph of ectoparasites while retaining antibody activity. Research on the ixodid tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus revealed that host immunoglobulin-G in the parasite was excreted via salivation, during feeding. Immunoglobulin-binding proteins in tick haemolymph and salivary glands are thought to be responsible for such excretion. The discovery of an immunoglobulin excretion system in ticks indicates that they have a highly developed mechanism to protect themselves from their host's antibody attack. Such a mechanism questions whether immunization strategies will be effective against ticks, unless they circumvent or disable the ticks' immunoglobulin excretion system.