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Keywords:

  • tick;
  • defensin;
  • innate immunity;
  • rickettsia.

Abstract

The importance of tick defensins is evidenced by their expression in a wide variety of tick tissues and prevalence across many tick genera. To date, the functional and biological significance of defensin-2 as a rickettsiastatic or rickettsiacidal antimicrobial peptide has not been addressed. In a previous study, defensin-2 transcription was shown to increase in Dermacentor variabilis ticks challenged with Rickettsia montanensis. In the present study, the hypothesis that defensin-2 is functional as a rickettsiastatic and/or rickettsiacidal antimicrobial peptide is tested. We show that defensin-2 plays a role in reducing burden after acquisition of Rickettsia montanensis through capillary feeding. Moreover, defensin-2 is shown to associate with R. montanensis in vitro and in vivo, causing cytoplasmic leakiness.