[2017-01-23] Before infecting humans, tick-borne bacteria or viruses first have to get past a tick’s defences and colonize it. How they can manage this, is not well understood. To investigate this smart mechanism, researchers from Umea University, and Yale University, studied a model of the second-most-common tick-borne infection in the United States, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, which can cause headaches, muscle pain, and even death.
Researchers Felipe Cava and Akhilesh K Yadav from The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden at the Department of Molecular Biology in Umea University, in collaboration with researchers from Yale University have found that in ticks, the bacterium A. phagocytophilum, before infecting the humans causes the infection, first triggers the expression of a particular protein in the ticks. This protein then alters molecules in the tick’s gut, allowing the bacteria to enter and colonize the gut microbes.
The unexpected finding could help scientists develop strategies to block A. phagocytophilum and other tick-borne agents that cause disease.
The study was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The group of Felipe Cava is investigating the details of the bacterial cell wall. The MIMS scientists are at the moment setting up a new database “mureinome”, which collects molecular information on the metabolic and regulatory pathways which could be used to develop new species-specific antimicrobials therapies.
Authors of the article are Nabil M. Abraham, Lei Liu, Brandon L. Jutras, Akhilesh K. Yadav, Sukanya Narasimhan, Vissagan Gopalakrishnan, Juliana M. Ansari, Kimberly K. Jefferson, Felipe Cava, Christine Jacobs-Wagner, Erol Fikrig.
This work got the funding support from Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Kempe Foundations and the Swedish Research Council (VR).
Picture: Felipe Cava (left) and Akhilesh Yadav at the department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University