Ticks are blood-feeding ectoparasites but spend most of their life off-host where they may have to tolerate low winter temperatures. Rapid cold hardening (RCH) is a process commonly used by arthropods, including ticks, to improve survival of acute low temperature exposure. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms in ticks associated with RCH, cold shock and recovery from these stresses. In the present study, we investigated the extent to which RCH influences gene expression and metabolism during recovery from cold stress in Dermacentor variabilis, the American dog tick, using a combined transcriptomics and metabolomics approach. Following recovery from RCH, 1860 genes were differentially expressed in ticks, whereas only 99 genes responded during recovery to direct cold shock. Recovery from RCH resulted in an upregulation of various pathways associated with ion binding, transport, metabolism and cellular structures seen in the response of other arthropods to cold. The accumulation of various metabolites, including several amino acids and betaine, corresponded to transcriptional shifts in the pathways associated with these molecules, suggesting congruent metabolome and transcriptome changes. Ticks, D. variabilis and Amblyomma maculatum, receiving exogenous betaine and valine demonstrated enhanced cold tolerance, suggesting cryoprotective effects of these metabolites. Overall, many of the responses during recovery from cold shock in ticks were similar to those observed in other arthropods, but several adjustments may be distinct from the responses in other currently examined taxa.

You do not currently have access to this content.