Exploring tick saliva: from biochemistry to ‘sialomes’ and functional genomics
Tick saliva, a fluid once believed to be only relevant for lubrication of mouthparts and water balance, is now well known to be a cocktail of potent anti-haemostatic, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory molecules that helps these arthropods obtain a blood meal from their vertebrate hosts. The repertoire of pharmacologically active components in this cocktail is impressive as well as the number of targets they specifically affect. These salivary components change the physiology of the host at the bite site and, consequently, some pathogens transmitted by ticks take advantage of this change and become more infective. Tick salivary proteins have therefore become an attractive target to control tick-borne diseases. Recent advances in molecular biology, protein chemistry and computational biology are accelerating the isolation, sequencing and analysis of a large number of transcripts and proteins from the saliva of different ticks. Many of these newly isolated genes code for proteins with homologies to known proteins allowing identification or prediction of their function. However, most of these genes code for proteins with unknown functions therefore opening the road to functional genomic approaches to identify their biological activities and roles in blood feeding and hence, vaccine development to control tick-borne diseases.
Key Words: Functional genomics; high-throughput approaches; molecular biology; pharmacology; tick saliva.
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