The transovarial transmission of tick-borne bacterial pathogens is an important mechanism for their maintenance in natural populations and transmission, causing disease in humans and animals. The mechanism for this transmission and the possible role of tick hormones facilitating this process have never been studied. Injections of physiological levels of the tick hormone, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), into part-fed (virgin) adult females of the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, attached to the host caused a reduction in density of Rickettsia montanensis in the carcass and an increase in the ovaries compared to buffer-injected controls. This injection initiates yolk protein synthesis and uptake by the eggs but has no effect on blood feeding. Francisella sp. and R. montanensis were the predominant bacteria based on the proportionality in the carcass and ovary. The total bacteria load increased in the carcass and ovaries, and bacteria in the genus Pseudomonas increased in the carcass after the 20E injection. The mechanism of how the Rickettsia species respond to changes in tick hormonal regulation needs further investigation. Multiple possible mechanisms for the proliferation of R. montanensis in the ovaries are proposed.
Original Publication Citation
Ponnusamy, L., Sutton, H., Mitchell, R. D., Sonenshine, D. E., Apperson, C. S., & Roe, R. M. (2021). Tick ecdysteroid hormone, global microbiota/Rickettsia signaling in the ovary versus carcass during vitellogenesis in part-fed (virgin) American dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis Microorganisms, 9(6), 1-14, Article 1242. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9061242
Ponnusamy, Loganathan; Sutton, Haley; Mitchell III, Robert D.; Sonenshine, Daniel E.; Apperson, Charles S.; and Michael Roe, Richard, "Tick Ecdysteroid Hormone, Global Microbiota/Rickettsia Signaling in the Ovary Versus Carcass During Vitellogenesis in Part-Fed (Virgin) American Dog Ticks, Dermacentor variabilis" (2021). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 454.