Tick Immune System: What Is Known, the Interconnections, the Gaps, and the Challenges

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Fogaça, Andréa C.
Sousa, Géssica
Pavanelo, Daniel B.
Esteves, Eliane
Martins, Larissa A.
Urbanová, Veronika
Kopáček, Petr
Daffre, Sirlei
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Ticks are ectoparasitic arthropods that necessarily feed on the blood of their vertebrate hosts. The success of blood acquisition depends on the pharmacological properties of tick saliva, which is injected into the host during tick feeding. Saliva is also used as a vehicle by several types of pathogens to be transmitted to the host, making ticks versatile vectors of several diseases for humans and other animals. When a tick feeds on an infected host, the pathogen reaches the gut of the tick and must migrate to its salivary glands via hemolymph to be successfully transmitted to a subsequent host during the next stage of feeding. In addition, some pathogens can colonize the ovaries of the tick and be transovarially transmitted to progeny. The tick immune system, as well as the immune system of other invertebrates, is more rudimentary than the immune system of vertebrates, presenting only innate immune responses. Although simpler, the large number of tick species evidences the efficiency of their immune system. The factors of their immune system act in each tick organ that interacts with pathogens; therefore, these factors are potential targets for the development of new strategies for the control of ticks and tick-borne diseases. The objective of this review is to present the prevailing knowledge on the tick immune system and to discuss the challenges of studying tick immunity, especially regarding the gaps and interconnections. To this end, we use a comparative approach of the tick immune system with the immune system of other invertebrates, focusing on various components of humoral and cellular immunity, such as signaling pathways, antimicrobial peptides, redox metabolism, complement-like molecules and regulated cell death. In addition, the role of tick microbiota in vector competence is also discussed.