Anaplasma pathogen infection alters chemical composition of the exoskeleton of hard ticks (Acari: Ixodidae)

Ticks are arthropod ectoparasites and vectors of pathogens affecting human and animal health worldwide. The exoskeleton is a structure that protect arthropods from natural threats such as predators and diseases. Both structural proteins and chemical elements are components of the exoskeleton. However, the chemical composition and effect of pathogen infection on tick exoskeleton properties has not been characterized. In this study, we characterized the chemical composition of tick exoskeleton and the effect of Anaplasma pathogen infection on the chemical elements of the exoskeleton and selected structural proteins. The chemical composition was characterized ventral, dorsal upper and dorsal lower regions of tick exoskeleton by scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy and compared between infected and uninfected ticks. The levels of selected structural proteins were analyzed in infected and uninfected I. scapularis salivary glands by immunofluorescence analysis. The results showed that tick exoskeleton contains chemical elements also found in other arthropods. Some of the identified elements such as Mg and Al may be involved in tick exoskeleton stabilization through biomineralization of structural proteins that may be overrepresented in response to pathogen infection. These results suggested that pathogen infection alters the chemical composition of tick exoskeleton by mechanisms still to be characterized and with tick species and exoskeleton region-specific differences.



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