Tick capillary feeding for the study of proteins involved in tick-pathogen interactions as potential antigens for the control of tick infestation and pathogen infection

Sandra Antunes, Octavio Merino, Juan Mosqueda, Juan A. Moreno-Cid, Lesley Bell-Sakyi, Rennos Fragkoudis, Sabine Weisheit, José M. Pérez De La Lastra, Pilar Alberdi, Ana Domingos, José De La Fuente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Ticks represent a significant health risk to animals and humans due to the variety of pathogens they can transmit during feeding. The traditional use of chemicals to control ticks has serious drawbacks, including the selection of acaricide-resistant ticks and environmental contamination with chemical residues. Vaccination with the tick midgut antigen BM86 was shown to be a good alternative for cattle tick control. However, results vary considerably between tick species and geographic location. Therefore, new antigens are required for the development of vaccines controlling both tick infestations and pathogen infection/transmission. Tick proteins involved in tick-pathogen interactions may provide good candidate protective antigens for these vaccines, but appropriate screening procedures are needed to select the best candidates. Methods. In this study, we selected proteins involved in tick-Anaplasma (Subolesin and SILK) and tick-Babesia (TROSPA) interactions and used in vitro capillary feeding to characterize their potential as antigens for the control of cattle tick infestations and infection with Anaplasma marginale and Babesia bigemina. Purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies were generated against recombinant SUB, SILK and TROSPA and added to uninfected or infected bovine blood to capillary-feed female Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus ticks. Tick weight, oviposition and pathogen DNA levels were determined in treated and control ticks. Results: The specificity of purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies against tick recombinant proteins was confirmed by Western blot and against native proteins in tick cell lines and tick tissues using immunofluorescence. Capillary-fed ticks ingested antibodies added to the blood meal and the effect of these antibodies on tick weight and oviposition was shown. However, no effect was observed on pathogen DNA levels. Conclusions: These results highlighted the advantages and some of the disadvantages of in vitro tick capillary feeding for the characterization of candidate tick protective antigens. While an effect on tick weight and oviposition was observed, the effect on pathogen levels was not evident probably due to high tick-to-tick variations among other factors. Nevertheless, these results together with previous results of RNA interference functional studies suggest that these proteins are good candidate vaccine antigens for the control of R. microplus infestations and infection with A. marginale and B. bigemina.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalParasites & Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2014


  • Anaplasma
  • Babesia
  • Capillary feeding
  • Pathogen
  • Tick
  • Tick cell line
  • Vaccine


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