Home Author Ticks and Lyme disease: co-authored paper by USM researchers that examines tick microRNAs

Ticks and Lyme disease: co-authored paper by USM researchers that examines tick microRNAs


Thu 07/14/2022 – 14:22 | By: Ivonne Kawas

According to recent estimates reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease cases have rapidly increased in the United States to more than 476,000 per year, and health care costs exceed $1 billion per year. .

Most cases of Lyme disease in the United States are due to the bacteria spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto transmitted by the bite of a blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis.

A research article recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) opens up a new area of ​​study: explaining the functional role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in tick biology and tick-pathogen-host interactions.

miRNAs, a small non-coding RNA molecule that is 19-25 nucleotides in length that regulate post-transcriptional gene expression, are thought to play a role in tick immunity and can help scientists understand the process of disease development.

The lead author of this study, Dr. Deepak Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at the USM Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, and his collaborators published new information in the article titled: “Identification of microRNAs in the vector of Lyme disease Ixodes scapularis, as they examined the manipulative potential of the novel class of tick miRNAs.

The team of researchers note that miRNAs have enormous potential to regulate cellular processes, including immune pathways within the tick to control bacterial, parasitic and viral infections; however, there are limited data on differentially expressed miRNAs in the blacklegged tick after infection with the spirochete bacterium.

In the study, they identified that miRNAs differentially expressed in Borrelia burgdorferi– infected ticks. They explain that the manipulative potential of the novel class of tick miRNAs in the context of Borrelia transmission will likely help to develop tick-borne pathogen control strategies that may pave the way to preventing or treating infection.

Collaborators included Latoyia Downs, a graduate student in USM’s School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences; Dr. Monica Embers, associate professor of microbiology and immunology division of immunology at Tulane National Primate Research Center; and USM Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences professors Dr. Alex Flynt and Dr. Shahid Karim.

Researchers sequenced, assembled and annotated tick miRNAs, a key informative dataset to better understand the molecular adaptations of ticks. Borrelia burgdorferi survive in Ixodes scapularis. The team added >254 new and novel miRNAs to the existing database.

“Tick-borne diseases are increasing due to climate change and are expected to increase,” said co-author Dr. Karim. “The increase in tick-borne diseases is a significant threat to public health in the absence of preventive measures. The field of tick miRNAs is mostly overlooked and unexplored. This work is the tip of the iceberg, as it opens a new way to exploit the full potential of miRNAs in ticks.

The International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international, open-access, peer-reviewed journal providing an advanced forum for biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, molecular biophysics, molecular medicine, and all aspects of molecular research in chemistry. It is published twice a month online by MDPI. Its affiliates include the Australian Society of Plant Scientists (ASPS), Epigenetics Society, European Calcium Society (ECS), European Chitin Society (EUCHIS), Spanish Society of Cell Biology (SEBC) and d ‘others.

The research was published in a special issue of the journal, Molecular biology of disease vectors. Read the newspaper.