Document Type


Date of Original Version



Ticks are notorious vectors of disease for humans, and many species of ticks transmit multiple pathogens, sometimes in the same tick bite. Accordingly, a broad-spectrum vaccine that targets vector ticks and pathogen transmission at the tick/host interface, rather than multiple vaccines against every possible tickborne pathogen, could become an important tool for resolving an emerging public health crisis. The concept for such a tick protective vaccine comes from observations of an acquired tick resistance (ATR) that can develop in non-natural hosts of ticks following sensitization to tick salivary components. Mice are commonly used as models to study immune responses to human pathogens but normal mice are natural hosts for many species of ticks and fail to develop ATR. We evaluated HLA DR3 transgenic (tg) “humanized” mice as a potential model of ATR and assessed the possibility of using this animal model for tick protective vaccine discovery studies. Serial tick infestations with pathogen-free Ixodes scapularis ticks were used to tick-bite sensitize HLA DR3 tg mice. Sensitization resulted in a cytokine skew favoring a Th2 bias as well as partial (57%) protection to infection with Lyme disease spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi) following infected tick challenge when compared to tick naïve counterparts. I. scapularis salivary gland homogenate (SGH) and a group of immunoinformatic-predicted T cell epitopes identified from the I. scapularis salivary transcriptome were used separately to vaccinate HLA DR3 tg mice, and these mice also were assessed for both pathogen protection and epitope recognition. Reduced pathogen transmission along with a Th2 skew resulted from SGH vaccination, while no significant protection and a possible T regulatory bias was seen in epitope-vaccinated mice. This study provides the first proof-of-concept for using HLA DR tg “humanized” mice for studying the potential tick protective effects of immunoinformatic- or otherwise-derived tick salivary components as tickborne disease vaccines.