Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology


Cell & Molecular Biology

First Advisor

Thomas N. Mather


Ticks act as vectors for a number of different pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi the causative agent of Lyme disease. The most prominent tick vector in the United States is the deer 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 host animals such as guinea pigs or humans can develop adaptive immune responses to tick bites, anti-tick vaccination is a potential approach to mitigate health risks associated with tick bites.

The study presented here aimed at identifying immunogenic salivary proteins from I. scapularis recognized by human immune sera. To identify these potential antigens, which later on need to be characterized with regards to their vaccination potential, a phage display approach was utilized. Antigen libraries derived from salivary gland mRNA of 18 h fed I. scapularis were screened with human immune sera.

Screening with an antigen library derived from nymphal ticks led to identification of a metalloprotease. This enzyme has been described previously and appears promising as a novel vaccine candidate. Furthermore, it has close homologs in other ixodid species raising its potential as a universal vaccine.



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