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Background: Ticks act as vectors for a large number of different pathogens, perhaps most notably Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. The most prominent tick vector in the United States is the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis. Tick bites are of special public health concern since there are no vaccines available against most tick-transmitted pathogens. Based on the observation that certain non-natural host animals such as guinea pigs or humans can develop adaptive immune responses to tick bites, anti-tick vaccination is a potential approach to tackle health risks associated with tick bites.

Results: The aim of this study was to use an oligopeptide phage display strategy to identify immunogenic salivary gland proteins from I. scapularis that are recognized by human immune sera. Oligopeptide libraries were generated from salivary gland mRNA of 18 h fed nymphal I. scapularis. Eight immunogenic oligopeptides were selected using human immune sera. Three selected immunogenic oligopeptides were cloned and produced as recombinant proteins. The immunogenic character of an identified metalloprotease (MP1) was validated with human sera. This enzyme has been described previously and was hypothesized as immunogenic which was confirmed in this study. Interestingly, it also has close homologs in other Ixodes species.

Conclusion: An immunogenic protein of I. scapularis was identified by oligopeptide phage display. MP1 is a potential candidate for vaccine development.

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