Among hematophagous arthropods ticks transmit a large variety of pathogens with public health and veterinary importance. Tick transmit several emergent and re-emergent arboviruses across the world. In 2010, scientists discovered severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), an emergent Banyangvirus (Phenuivirus) transmitted by ticks in Asian countries. SFTSV infection causes severe symptoms and can lead to the death in infected individuals. Novel vector-based control strategies require a more detailed understanding of the vector-virus interaction and the vector response to infection.
Ripicephalius microplus ticks are vectors of SFTSV and as for many non-model arthropods we are missing basic genomic data, which makes tick-arbovirus interaction studies difficult. To overcome these limitations, the TICKITS (TICK cell Interactions with SFTSV) project aims to develop an innovative approach coupling transcriptomic and proteomics data from R. microplus cells during infection. This systematic approach will characterize SFTSV infections in their natural tick vector and will generate information on changes in vector cells both at transcriptome and proteome level. This integrative view of the host response will give us insights on targets that can be investigated using gene silencing approaches to determine their impact on viral infection. I choose to work with the Kohl and Brennan laboratories at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) in Glasgow, UK. Both laboratories excel in tick/arthropod biology and arbovirus infection studies and have all the tools necessary to carry out this work. By adding my molecular and omics expertise we aim to develop novel angles in tick research. Moreover, the data generated will provide a solid base for other projects to build on and develop comparative projects across species.
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