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Keywords:

  • Dermacentor variabilis;
  • Rickettsia montanensis;
  • Rickettsia amblyommii;
  • α-catenin

Abstract

Alpha catenin is a cytoskeleton protein that acts as a regulator of actin rearrangement by forming an E-cadherin adhesion complex. In Dermacentor variabilis, a putative α-catenin (Dvα-catenin) was previously identified as differentially regulated in ovaries of ticks chronically infected with Rickettsia montanensis. To begin characterizing the role(s) of Dvα-catenin during rickettsial infection, the full-length Dvα-catenin cDNA was cloned and analysed. Comparative sequence analysis demonstrates a 3069-bp cDNA with a 2718-bp open reading frame with a sequence similar to Ixodes scapularisα-catenin. A portion of Dvα-catenin is homologous to the vinculin-conserved domain containing a putative actin-binding region and β-catenin-binding and -dimerization regions. Quantitative reverse-transcription PCR analysis demonstrated that Dvα-catenin is predominantly expressed in tick ovaries and is responsive to tick feeding. The tissue-specific gene expression analysis of ticks exposed to Rickettsia demonstrates that Dvα-catenin expression was significantly downregulated 12 h after exposure to R. montanensis, but not in Rickettsia amblyommii-exposed ovaries, compared with Rickettsia-unexposed ticks. Studying tick-derived molecules associated with rickettsial infection will provide a better understanding of the transmission dynamics of tick-borne rickettsial diseases.