Transcriptional immunoprofiling at the Tick-Virus-Host interface during early stages of tick-borne encephalitis virus transmission

Saravanan Thangamani, Meghan E. Hermance, Rodrigo I. Santos, Mirko Slovak, Dar Heinze, Steven G. Widen, Maria Kazimirova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Emerging and re-emerging diseases transmitted by blood feeding arthropods are significant global public health problems. Ticks transmit the greatest variety of pathogenic microorganisms of any blood feeding arthropod. Infectious agents transmitted by ticks are delivered to the vertebrate host together with saliva at the bite site. Tick salivary glands produce complex cocktails of bioactive molecules that facilitate blood feeding and pathogen transmission by modulating host hemostasis, pain/itch responses, wound healing, and both innate and adaptive immunity. In this study, we utilized Illumina Next Generation Sequencing to characterize the transcriptional immunoprofile of cutaneous immune responses to Ixodes ricinus transmitted tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). A comparative immune gene expression analysis of TBEV-infected and uninfected tick feeding sites was performed. Our analysis reveals that ticks create an inflammatory environment at the bite site during the first 3 h of feeding, and significant differences in host responses were observed between TBEV-infected and uninfected tick feeding. Gene-expression analysis reveals modulation of inflammatory genes after 1 and 3 h of TBEV-infected tick feeding. Transcriptional levels of genes specific to chemokines and cytokines indicated a neutrophil-dominated immune response. Immunohistochemistry of the tick feeding site revealed that mononuclear phagocytes and fibroblasts are the primary target cells for TBEV infection and did not detect TBEV antigens in neutrophils. Together, the transcriptional and immunohistochemistry results suggest that early cutaneous host responses to TBEV-infected tick feeding are more inflammatory than expected and highlight the importance of inflammatory chemokine and cytokine pathways in tick-borne flavivirus transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number494
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Cutaneous
  • Flavivirus
  • Immune response
  • Ixodes ricinus
  • TBEV
  • Tick

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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