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Plant Sciences and Entomology


Background: Tick selenoproteins are involved in regulating oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress during prolonged tick feeding on mammalian hosts. How selenoproteins are activated upon tick-borne pathogen infection is yet to be defined.

Methods: To examine the functional role of selenoprotein K in Borrelia burgdorferi infection within the tick host Ixodes scapularis, RNA interference (RNAi)-based gene silencing was performed.

Results: Selenoprotein K is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein and a component of the ERAD complex involved in ER homeostasis. A qRT-PCR assay revealed the significant upregulation of selenogene K (selenoK) expression in B. burgdorferi-infected tick tissues. Silencing of the selenoK transcript significantly depleted B. burgdorferi copies within the infected tick tissues. Upon selenoK knockdown, another component of the ERAD complex, selenoprotein S (selenoS), was significantly upregulated, suggesting a compensatory mechanism to maintain ER homeostasis within the tick tissues. Knockdown of selenoK also upregulated ER stress-related unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway components, ATF6 and EIF2.

Conclusions: The exact mechanisms that contribute to depletion of B. burgdorferi upon selenoK knockdown is yet to be determined, but this study suggests that selenoK may play a vital role in the survival of B. burgdorferi within the tick host.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.