Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Stop Interferon

A tick receptor 'fits' a mammalian chemical called interferon gamma – potential parasite control target

18 February 2023

Stop Interferon

When we’re ill, the body’s immune system prepares a cocktail of chemicals – some to rally our defences, others to warn our cells. But we may be warning something else too. Researchers looking at mice playing host to Ixodes scapularis ticks (like this one, given artificial fluorescence), found the ticks respond to a specific chemical found in their blood meal. Unusually for a different species, the ticks have a receptor – a protein that 'catches' another chemical – that fits a mammalian chemical called interferon gamma like a glove. The receptor, Dome-1, then triggers a series of changes inside the tick. Researchers find that these cross-species signals help the tick to adapt, grow and feed, but also bolster its immunity, protecting the parasite. While the team investigate such communication across an evolutionary divide, their studies may inspire drugs designed to guide or block these chemical messages.

Written by John Ankers

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