Foraging gene in black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis: preliminary sequence information

Kevin Dougherty


Despite variation in selective pressures, both the sequence and function of many genes are often conserved across metazoa (Fitzpatrick and Sokolowski 2004). It is assumed that these highly conserved genes encode proteins with a vital role (e.g. metabolic function, development, etc) in the biology of all animals. Researchers have taken this candidate gene approach to examine the genetic underpinnings of behavioral plasticity (Fitzpatrick et al. 2005). The foraging (for) gene encodes cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG) and potentially has a conserved role in food-related behaviors. Variation in foraging has been linked to the cGMP signal transduction pathway in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster (Osborne et al. 1997, Kalderon and Rubin 1989), the honey bee, Apis mellifera (Ben-Shahar et al. 2002), and the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (Fujiwara et al. 2002). In order to understand when the link between the for gene and behavior evolved, behavioral genetic analyses need to be undertaken with non-model genetic organisms (Fitzpatrick and Sokolowski 2004).

In spite of the medical and agricultural significance of many arthropods, there are still large gaps in our understanding of their biology. Ticks vector numerous etiological agents, yet relatively little is known about the tick genome (Hill and Wikel 2005). Black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, are involved in the transmission of Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (Anaplasma Phagocytophilum), and babesiosis (Babesia microti). Sequence information on the tick ortholog of the foraging gene could represent a novel target for tick-borne disease control.


Figure 1-Tick PCR Products. Amplified sequences (180 bp) were separated on an agarose gel. Faint bands were combined, purified using the Rapid Gel Extraction System (Marligen Biosciences Inc.), and cloned using pGEMT vector (Promega).

Primers were designed using a sequence alignment of mRNA transcripts from four insect species: D. melanogaster, A. mellifera, Anopholes gambiae, and Bombyx mori.

PCR products were gel purified, cloned and sequenced.

Nucleotide sequence was aligned with known sequences.

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I am eternally grateful to Dr. Rubin for the opportunity to pursue my interests in his laboratory. I would also like to thank the brave teaching assistants, Jinsong Qiu and Lisa Sarran, for their tireless efforts. Special thanks to Jinsong for his incredible patience.

This document was last modified 05/16/2006.
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