Document Type


Date of Original Version



Plant Sciences


Ixodes scapularis is the main vector of Lyme disease in the eastern and central United States. Tick salivary secretion has been shown as important for both blood-meal completion and pathogen transmission. Here we report a duplication event of cystatin genes in its genome that results in a transcription-regulated boost of saliva inhibitory activity against a conserved and relatively limited number of vertebrate papain-like cysteine proteases during blood feeding. We further show that the polypeptide products of the two genes differ in their binding affinity for some enzyme targets, and they display different antigenicity. Moreover, our reverse genetic approach employing RNA interference uncovered a crucial mediation in tick-feeding success. Given the role of the targeted enzymes in vertebrate immunity, we also show that host immunomodulation is implicated in the deleterious phenotype of silenced ticks making I. scapularis cystatins attractive targets for development of antitick vaccines.