Differential rickettsial transcription in bloodfeeding and non-bloodfeeding arthropod hosts

Victoria I. Verhoeve, Krit Jirakanwisal, Tadanobu Utsuki, Kevin R. Macaluso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Crucial factors influencing the epidemiology of Rickettsia felis rickettsiosis include pathogenesis and transmission. Detection of R. felis DNA in a number of arthropod species has been reported, with characterized isolates, R. felis strain LSU and strain LSU-Lb, generated from the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, and the non-hematophagous booklouse, Liposcelis bostrychophila, respectively. While it is realized that strain influence on host biology varies, the rickettsial response to these distinct host environments remained undefined. To identify a panel of potential rickettsial transmission determinants in the cat flea, the transcriptional profile for these two strains of R. felis were compared in their arthropod hosts using RNA-seq. Rickettsial genes with increased transcription in the flea as compared to the booklouse were identified. Genes previously associated with bacterial virulence including LPS biosynthesis, Type IV secretion system, ABC transporters, and a toxin-antitoxin system were selected for further study. Transcription of putative virulence-associated genes was determined in a flea infection bioassay for both strains of R. felis. A host-dependent transcriptional profile during bloodfeeding, specifically, an increased expression of selected transcripts in newly infected cat fleas and flea feces was detected when compared to arthropod cell culture and incubation in vertebrate blood. Together, these studies have identified novel, host-dependent rickettsial factors that likely contribute to successful horizontal transmission by bloodfeeding arthropods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0163769
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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