A menace for humans, pets and wildlife, ticks transmit a wide range of pathogens, including the Borrelia parasites responsible for Lyme disease. The key to combatting this and other tick-borne diseases could be found in the recently-sequenced genome of a medically-important tick species, Ixodes scapularis. Pictured are the tick’s chromosomes, highlighted to show their centromeres and telomeres – the characteristic sequences at the middle and ends of chromosomes, respectively – and segments rich in repetitive sequences. Seventy percent of the relatively large tick genome consists of repetitive DNA, making it difficult to put together. Now that it’s been assembled, analysis of the genome is yielding new insights into processes essential to tick life cycles, such as host-seeking and blood-feeding. Identifying tick-specific genes, not found in other arthropods, or gene families greatly expanded in ticks, like the regulatory proteins controlling salivation and feeding, could also suggest potential targets for new tick repellents.
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