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Infect Immun. 2011 Feb;79(2):774-85. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00482-10. Epub 2010 Dec 6.

Antialarmin effect of tick saliva during the transmission of Lyme disease.

Author information

EA 4438, Physiopathologie et Médecine Translationnelle, Facultés de Médecine et de Pharmacie, Université de Strasbourg, 67000 Strasbourg, France.

Erratum in

  • Infect Immun. 2011 Dec;79(12):5039. Schuijt, Tim [corrected to Schuijt, Tim J]; Hovius, Joppe [corrected to Hovius, Joppe W].


Tick saliva has potent immunomodulatory properties. In arthropod-borne diseases, this effect is largely used by microorganisms to increase their pathogenicity and to evade host immune responses. We show that in Lyme borreliosis, tick salivary gland extract and a tick saliva protein, Salp15, inhibit in vitro keratinocyte inflammation induced by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto or by the major outer surface lipoprotein of Borrelia, OspC. Chemokines (interleukin-8 [IL-8] and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 [MCP-1]) and several antimicrobial peptides (defensins, cathelicidin, psoriasin, and RNase 7) were downregulated. Interestingly, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) transiently inhibited bacterial motility but did not kill the organisms when tested in vitro. We conclude that tick saliva affects the chemotactic properties of chemokines and AMPs on immune cells and has an antialarmin effect on human primary keratinocytes. Alarmins are mediators that mobilize and activate antigen-presenting cells. Inhibition of cutaneous innate immunity and of the migration of immune cells to the site of the tick bite ensures a favorable environment for Borrelia. The bacterium can then multiply locally and, subsequently, disseminate to the target organs, including joints, heart, and the central nervous system.

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