Tick Subolesin and its ortholog in insects and vertebrates, Akirin, have been suggested to play a role in the immune response through regulation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB)-dependent and independent gene expression via interaction with intermediate proteins that interact with NF-kB and other regulatory proteins, bind DNA or remodel chromatin to regulate gene expression. The objective of this study was to characterize the structure and regulation of subolesin in Ixodes scapularis. I. scapularis is a vector of emerging pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia microti that cause in humans
Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, respectively. The genome of I. scapularis was recently sequenced, and this tick serves as a model organism for the study of vector-host-pathogen interactions. However, basic biological questions such as gene organization and regulation are largely unknown in ticks and other arthropod vectors.
The results presented here provide evidence that subolesin/akirin are evolutionarily conserved at several levels (primary sequence, gene organization and function), thus supporting their crucial biological function in metazoans. These results showed that NF-kB (Relish) is involved in the regulation of subolesin expression in ticks, suggesting that as in other organisms, different NF-kB integral subunits and/or unknown interacting proteins regulate the specificity of the NF-kB-mediated gene expression. These results suggested a regulatory network involving cross-regulation between NF-kB (Relish) and Subolesin and Subolesin auto-regulation with possible implications in tick immune response to bacterial infection.
These results advance our understanding of gene organization and regulation in I. scapularis and have important implications for arthropod vectors genetics and immunology highlighting the possible role of NF-kB and Subolesin/Akirin in vector-pathogen interactions and for designing new strategies for the control of vector infestations and pathogen transmission.