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J Insect Physiol. 2005 Oct;51(10):1105-16. Epub 2005 Aug 2.

In vivo role of 20-hydroxyecdysone in the regulation of the vitellogenin mRNA and egg development in the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say).

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7647, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7647, USA.


Injection of the hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone (20-E) into partially fed (virgin) female adults of the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, while they are attached and feeding on the rabbit host, initiated the expression of the vitellogenin (Vg) gene, and Vg protein secretion and uptake by the ovary. The induction of egg production by 20-E in this bioassay was dose dependent in the range of 1-50 times the concentration normally found in a replete, vitellogenic female. Ticks examined 4 d after the 50 x treatment were still attached to the host, had numerous enlarged vitellin-filled (brown) oocytes in their ovaries, but had not engorged to repletion. The ovaries reached weights similar to those found in untreated, replete (mated) females (pre-oviposition) while solvent-injected controls demonstrated no increase in oocyte size or increase in ovary weight. An increase in the levels of a putative Vg protein was observed in hemolymph samples collected 1, 2 and 3d post-20-E injection but was not observed in the corresponding solvent controls as determined by native PAGE. Analysis of the ecdysteroid-induced protein by tryptic digestion-mass fingerprinting and BLASTP found that the putative Vg had the strongest match to GP80 (U49934), the partial sequence for the vitellogenin protein from Boophilus microplus. A partial Vg cDNA was cloned and sequenced from replete females of D. variabilis with a high similarity to GP80. Using this message as a probe, Northern blots conducted with RNA collected from partially fed, virgin females 1, 2 and 3d post-20-E injection showed upregulation of the Vg mRNA on all 3 days. Controls injected with solvent only showed no Vg mRNA. Injections with juvenile hormone III did not stimulate Vg expression, oocyte growth or full engorgement. These studies indicate that ecdysteroids and not JH can initiate expression of the Vg gene, Vg protein synthesis and release into hemolymph, and Vg uptake into developing oocytes under bioassay conditions mimicking normal feeding on the host.

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