Differential Expression of Immune Genes in the Rhipicephalus microplus Gut in Response to Theileria equi Infection

Patrícia Gonzaga Paulino, Maristela Peckle, Leo Paulis Mendonça, Carlos Luiz Massard, Sandra Antunes, Joana Couto, Ana Domingos, Daniel da Silva Guedes Junior, Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz, Huarrisson Azevedo Santos

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Rhipicephalus microplus is the only tick species known to serve as a biological vector of Theileria equi for horses and other equids in Brazil. The protozoan T. equi is one of the causal agents of equine piroplasmosis, a major threat in horse breeding systems. Vector competence is closely linked to the pathogens’ ability to evade tick defense mechanisms. However, knowledge of tick immune response against infections by hemoparasites of the Theileria genus is scarce. In the present study, the expression of genes involved in immune signaling pathways of R. microplus adults’ guts when challenged with a high or low parasitic load of T. equi was evaluated. This research demonstrates divergences in the immune gene expression pattern linked to T. equi infection in R. microplus since the Toll, IMD, and JNK signaling pathways were transcriptionally repressed in the guts of adult ticks infected with T. equi. Moreover, the results showed that different infectious doses of T. equi induce differential gene expression of key components of immune signaling cascades in R. microplus gut, suggesting a link between the intensity of infection and the activation of tick immunity response. The present study adds knowledge to elucidate the gut immune signaling response of R. microplus to T. equi infection. In addition, the generated data can serve as a basis for further investigations to develop strategies for controlling and preventing equine piroplasmosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1478
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2022


  • immunity
  • signaling pathways
  • parasite–vector relationship
  • horses
  • tick


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