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The Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus Bm86 gene plays a critical role in the fitness of ticks fed on cattle during acute Babesia bovis infection

Reginaldo G Bastos1*, Massaro W Ueti2, Donald P Knowles12 and Glen A Scoles2

Author Affiliations

1 Program in Vector-Borne Diseases, Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-7040, USA

2 Animal Disease Research Unit, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Pullman, WA 99164-6630, USA

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Parasites & Vectors 2010, 3:111  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-3-111

Published: 19 November 2010



Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus is an economically important tick of cattle involved in the transmission of Babesia bovis, the etiological agent of bovine babesiosis. Commercial anti-tick vaccines based on the R. microplus Bm86 glycoprotein have shown some effect in controlling tick infestation; however their efficacy as a stand-alone solution for tick control has been questioned. Understanding the role of the Bm86 gene product in tick biology is critical to identifying additional methods to utilize Bm86 to reduce R. microplus infestation and babesia transmission. Additionally, the role played by Bm86 in R. microplus fitness during B. bovis infection is unknown.


Here we describe in two independent experiments that RNA interference-mediated silencing of Bm86 decreased the fitness of R. microplus females fed on cattle during acute B. bovis infection. Notably, Bm86 silencing decreased the number and survival of engorged females, and decreased the weight of egg masses. However, gene silencing had no significant effect on the efficiency of transovarial transmission of B. bovis from surviving female ticks to their larval offspring. The results also show that Bm86 is expressed, in addition to gut cells, in larvae, nymphs, adult males and ovaries of partially engorged adult R. microplus females, and its expression was significantly down-regulated in ovaries of ticks fed on B. bovis-infected cattle.


The R. microplus Bm86 gene plays a critical role during tick feeding and after repletion during blood digestion in ticks fed on cattle during acute B. bovis infection. Therefore, the data indirectly support the rationale for using Bm86-based vaccines, perhaps in combination with acaricides, to control tick infestation particularly in B. bovis endemic areas.