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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Jun 13;305(4):869-75.

Cloning of a salivary gland metalloprotease and characterization of gelatinase and fibrin(ogen)lytic activities in the saliva of the Lyme disease tick vector Ixodes scapularis.

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  • 1Medical Entomology Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, Room 126, Building 4, 4 Center Drive, MSC 0425, Bethesda, MD 20892-0425, USA.


The full-length sequence of tick salivary gland cDNA coding for a protein similar to metalloproteases (MP) of the reprolysin family is reported. The Ixodes scapularis MP is a 488 amino acid (aa) protein containing pre- and pro-enzyme domains, the zinc-binding motif HExxHxxGxxH common to metalloproteases, and a cysteine-rich region. In addition, the predicted amino-terminal sequences of I. scapularis MPs were found by Edman degradation of PVDF-transferred SDS/PAGE-separated tick saliva proteins, indicating that these putative enzymes are secreted. Furthermore, saliva has a metal-dependent proteolytic activity towards gelatin, fibrin(ogen), and fibronectin, but not collagen or laminin. Accordingly, I. scapularis saliva has a rather specific metalloprotease similar to the hemorrhagic proteases of snake venoms. This is the first description of such activity in tick saliva and its role in tick feeding and Borrelia transmission is discussed.

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