Dynamic gene expression in salivary glands of the cat flea during Rickettsia felis infection

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Pathogens and disease


The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is an arthropod vector capable of transmitting several human pathogens including Rickettsia species. Earlier studies identified Rickettsia felis in the salivary glands of the cat flea and transmission of rickettsiae during arthropod feeding. The saliva of hematophagous insects contains multiple biomolecules with anticlotting, vasodilatory and immunomodulatory activities. Notably, the exact role of salivary factors in the molecular interaction between flea-borne rickettsiae and their insect host is still largely unknown. To determine if R. felis modulates gene expression in the cat flea salivary glands, cat fleas were infected with R. felis and transcription patterns of selected salivary gland-derived factors, including antimicrobial peptides and flea-specific antigens, were assessed. Salivary glands were microdissected from infected and control cat fleas at different time points after exposure and total RNA was extracted and subjected to reverse-transcriptase quantitative PCR for gene expression analysis. During the experimental 10-day feeding period, a dynamic change in gene expression of immunity-related transcripts and salivary antigens between the two experimental groups was detected. The data indicated that defensin-2 (Cf-726), glycine-rich antimicrobial peptide (Cf-83), salivary antigens (Cf-169 and Cf-65) and deorphanized peptide (Cf-75) are flea-derived factors responsive to rickettsial infection.



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