The tick metagenome: form and function
Ixodes scapularis is a sanguivorous ectoparasite that feeds only 3 times in its life cycle. Blood is an extremely nutrient poor food source. Many organisms in the world of obligate blood feeders partake in mutualistic relationships with bacterial endosymbionts that provision certain nutrients to them. For example: in the Tsetse/Wigglesworthia relationship, Wigglesworthia synthesizes B-Vitamins and is able to provide them to the Tsetse. The loss of this endosymbiont results in reduced fecundity in the Tseste. There is very little information regarding mutualistic endosymbionts in ticks, especially I. scapularis. Evidence suggests that REIS (Rickettsiales endosymbiont of Ixodes scapularis) possesses the ability to synthesize Biotin, however it has not been shown to possess the ability to provision it to its host. We plan to sequence the microbiome of I. scapularis to determine its metabolic capabilities to assess whether the microbiome as a whole possesses the necessary pathways for complex Vitamin B synthesis and provisioning so that we may understand how I. scapularis is able to survive solely on blood.