Feeding by the tick, Ixodes scapularis, causes CD4+ T cells responding to cognate antigen to develop the capacity to express IL-4

U. U. Müller-Doblies, S. S. Maxwell, V. D. Boppana, M. A. Mihalyo, Stephen J Mcsorley, A. T. Vella, A. J. Adler, S. K. Wikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Effects of tick feeding on an early antigen-specific T cell response were studied by monitoring a clonotypic population of adoptively transferred T cell receptor (TCR) transgenic CD4 cells responding to a tick-associated antigen. When recipient mice were infested with pathogen-free Ixodes scapularis nymphs several days prior to T cell transfer and intradermal injection of soluble cognate antigen at the feeding site, the clonotypic CD4 cells gained the ability to express the Th2 effector cytokine IL-4. Notably, this effect was not only observed in BALB/c mice predisposed towards developing Th2 responses but also in B10.D2 mice predisposed towards Th1 responsiveness. Furthermore, tick feeding was able to superimpose IL-4 expression potential onto a strong Th1 response (indicated by robust IFN-γ expression potential) elicited by immunization with a vaccinia virus expressing the cognate antigen. The magnitude to which tick feeding was able to programme IL-4 expression potential in CD4 cells was partially reduced in mice that had been previously exposed to pathogen-free tick nymphs 6 weeks earlier, as well as when the nymphs were infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Intradermal injection of salivary gland extract programmed IL-4 expression potential similar to that of tick infestation, suggesting that IL-4 programming activity is contained within tick saliva.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-499
Number of pages15
JournalParasite Immunology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • IL-4
  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Th2 polarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Immunology


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