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Keywords:

  • Dermacentor variabilis;
  • Rickettsia montanensis;
  • vacuolar-ATPase

Abstract

Vacuolar (V)-ATPase is a proton-translocating enzyme that acidifies cellular compartments for various functions such as receptor-mediated endocytosis, intracellular trafficking and protein degradation. Previous studies in Dermacentor variabilis chronically infected with Rickettsia montanensis have identified V-ATPase as one of the tick-derived molecules transcribed in response to rickettsial infection. To examine the role of the tick V-ATPase in tick–Rickettsia interactions, a full-length 2887-bp cDNA (2532-bp open reading frame) clone corresponding to the transcript of the V0 domain subunit a of D. variabilis V-ATPase (DvVATPaseV0a) gene encoding an 843 amino acid protein with an estimated molecular weight of ∼96 kDa was isolated from D. variabilis. Amino acid sequence analysis of DvVATPaseV0a showed the highest similarity to VATPaseV0a from Ixodes scapularis. A potential N-glycosylation site and eight putative transmembrane segments were identified in the sequence. Western blot analysis of tick tissues probed with polyclonal antibody raised against recombinant DvVATPaseV0a revealed the expression of V-ATPase in the tick ovary. Transcriptional profiles of DvVATPaseV0a demonstrated a greater mRNA expression in the tick ovary, compared with the midgut and salivary glands; however, the mRNA level in each of these tick tissues remained unchanged after infection with R. montanensis for 1 h. V-ATPase inhibition bioassays resulted in a significant decrease in the ability of R. montanensis to invade tick cells in vitro, suggesting a role of V-ATPase in rickettsial infection of tick cells. Characterization of tick-derived molecules involved in rickettsial infection is essential for a thorough understanding of rickettsial transmission within tick populations and the ecology of tick-borne rickettsial diseases.