Bioinformatics and expression analyses of the Ixodes scapularis tick cystatin family

Adriana Mércia Guaratini Ibelli, Meghan M. Hermance, Tae Kwon Kim, Cassandra Lee Gonzalez, Albert Mulenga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The cystatins are inhibitors of papain- and legumain-like cysteine proteinases, classified in MEROPS subfamilies I25A-I25C. This study shows that 84 % (42/50) of tick cystatins are putatively extracellular in subfamily I25B and the rest are putatively intracellular in subfamily I25A. On the neighbor joining phylogeny guide tree, subfamily I25A members cluster together, while subfamily I25B cystatins segregate among prostriata or metastriata ticks. Two Ixodes scapularis cystatins, AAY66864 and ISCW011771 that show 50-71 % amino acid identity to metastriata tick cystatins may be linked to pathways that are common to all ticks, while ISCW000447 100 % conserved in I. ricinus is important among prostriata ticks. Likewise metastriata tick cystatins, Dermacentor variabilis-ACF35512, Rhipicephalus microplus-ACX53850, A. americanum-AEO36092, R. sanguineus-ACX53922, D. variabilis-ACF35514, R. sanguineus-ACX54033 and A. maculatum-AEO35155 that show 73-86 % amino acid identity may be essential to metastriata tick physiology. RT-PCR expression analyses revealed that I. scapularis cystatins were constitutively expressed in the salivary glands, midguts and other tissues of unfed ticks and ticks that were fed for 24-120 h, except for ISCW017861 that are restricted to the 24 h feeding time point. On the basis of mRNA expression patterns, I. scapularis cystatins, ISCW017861, ISCW011771, ISCW002215 and ISCW0024528 that are highly expressed at 24 h are likely involved in regulating early stage tick feeding events such as tick attachment onto host skin and creation of the feeding lesion. Similarly, ISCW018602, ISCW018603 and ISCW000447 that show 2-3 fold transcript increase by 120 h of feeding are likely associated with blood meal up take, while those that maintain steady state expression levels (ISCW018600, ISCW018601 and ISCW018604) during feeding may not be associated with tick feeding regulation. We discuss our findings in the context of advancing our knowledge of tick molecular biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Cystatins and tick physiology
  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Tick cystatin molecular relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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