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Frontiers in Physiology








While much effort has been put into understanding vitellogenesis in insects and other organisms, much less is known of this process in ticks. There are several steps that facilitate yolk formation in developing oocytes of which the vitellogenin receptor (VgR) is a key component. The tick VgR binds vitellogenin (Vg) circulating in the hemolymph to initiate receptor-mediated endocytosis and its transformation into vitellin (Vn). The conversion of Vg into Vn, the final form of the yolk protein, occurs inside oocytes of the female tick ovary. Vn is critical to tick embryos since it serves as the nutritional source for their development, survival, and reproduction. Recent studies also suggest that pathogenic microbes, i.e., Babesia spp., that rely on ticks for propagation and dissemination likely "hitchhike" onto Vg molecules as they enter developing oocytes through the VgR. Suppressing VgR messenger RNA synthesis via RNA interference (RNAi) completely blocked Babesia spp. transmission into developing tick oocytes, thereby inhibiting vertical transmission of these pathogenic microbes from female to eggs. To date, VgRs from only four tick species, Dermacentor variabilis, Rhipicephalus microplus, Amblyomma hebraeum, and Haemaphysalis longicornis, have been fully sequenced and characterized. In contrast, many more VgRs have been described in various insect species. VgR is a critical component in egg formation and maturation that can serve as a precise target for tick control. However, additional research will help identify unique residues within the receptor that are specific to ticks or other arthropod disease vectors while avoiding cross-reactivity with non-target species. Detailed knowledge of the molecular structure and functional role of tick VgRs will enable development of novel vaccines to control ticks and tick-borne diseases.


Copyright © 2019 Mitchell, Sonenshine and Pérez de León. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Original Publication Citation

Mitchell, R. D., Sonenshine, D. E., & Pérez de León, A. A. (2019). Vitellogenin receptor as a target for tick control: A mini-review. Frontiers in Physiology, 10(618), 9. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00618


0000-0001-9370-918X (Sonenshine)