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The blood cells, or hemocytes, of Ixodes ricinus have been shown to recognize, attack, and phagocytose microorganisms invading the body cavity, or hemocoel, of this tick. Regulated proliferation and differentiation of hemocytes, also referred to as immunocytes, is basic to an effective immune response to invading microorganisms. Therefore, this study dealt with hemopoiesis in I. ricinus, the vector tick of the
Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Histological evidence for the presence of hemopoietic tissue, a preferential proliferation site of hemocytes, is presented. Mainly the mitotic activity of free-floating hemocytes was examined. By means of microscopical photometry and flow cytometry, all three types of hemocytes in engorging female I. ricinus were found in different stages of the cell cycle. In the engorging tick, up to 40% of the hemocytes counted were in the S phase or the G2/M phase. From this study we conclude that the differentiated hemocyte types do not differentiate from stem cells in the adult tick. Moreover, microorganisms entering the hemocoel of engorging ticks are confronted with high numbers of hemocytes and, therefore, with an effective cellular immune response.