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BMC Genomics. 2010 Nov 10;11:624. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-11-624.

Transcriptomic analysis of the temporal host response to skin infestation with the ectoparasitic mite Psoroptes ovis.

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Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH26 0PZ, Scotland, UK.



Infestation of ovine skin with the ectoparasitic mite Psoroptes ovis results in a rapid cutaneous immune response, leading to the crusted skin lesions characteristic of sheep scab. Little is known regarding the mechanisms by which such a profound inflammatory response is instigated and to identify novel vaccine and drug targets a better understanding of the host-parasite relationship is essential. The main objective of this study was to perform a combined network and pathway analysis of the in vivo skin response to infestation with P. ovis to gain a clearer understanding of the mechanisms and signalling pathways involved.


Infestation with P. ovis resulted in differential expression of 1,552 genes over a 24 hour time course. Clustering by peak gene expression enabled classification of genes into temporally related groupings. Network and pathway analysis of clusters identified key signalling pathways involved in the host response to infestation. The analysis implicated a number of genes with roles in allergy and inflammation, including pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL1A, IL1B, IL6, IL8 and TNF) and factors involved in immune cell activation and recruitment (SELE, SELL, SELP, ICAM1, CSF2, CSF3, CCL2 and CXCL2). The analysis also highlighted the influence of the transcription factors NF-kB and AP-1 in the early pro-inflammatory response, and demonstrated a bias towards a Th2 type immune response.


This study has provided novel insights into the signalling mechanisms leading to the development of a pro-inflammatory response in sheep scab, whilst providing crucial information regarding the nature of mite factors that may trigger this response. It has enabled the elucidation of the temporal patterns by which the immune system is regulated following exposure to P. ovis, providing novel insights into the mechanisms underlying lesion development. This study has improved our existing knowledge of the host response to P. ovis, including the identification of key parallels between sheep scab and other inflammatory skin disorders and the identification of potential targets for disease control.

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