Isolation of cell lines and a rickettsial endosymbiont from the soft tick Carios capensis (acari: Argasidae: Ornithodorinae)

Joshua T. Mattila, Nicole Y. Burkhardt, H. Joel Hutcheson, Ulrike G. Munderloh, Timothy J. Kurtti

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56 Scopus citations


Soft ticks are medically important ectoparasites of birds and mammals that are found throughout the world. This report describes isolation and partial characterization of two embryonic cell lines, CCE2 and CCE3, from the seabird soft tick Carios capensis (Neumann). Sequencing of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene and karyology confirmed the lines were derived from C. capensis. CCE3 cells were diploid with a modal chromosome number of 20. The population doubling time for cell lines CCE2 and 3 in passage 40 was 6-9 d. A rickettsial endosymbiont, RCCE3, was co-isolated along with line CCE3. Nucleotide sequences of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products generated using primers specific for rickettsial 17-kDa antigen, outer membrane protein (omp) A, ompB, and citrate synthase genes along with phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that RCCE3 is a previously uncultured endosymbiont. The rickettsia was identified as a symbiont of C. capensis, closely related to rickettsiae previously detected by PCR in C. capensis, Ornithodoros moubata (Murray) and Hemaphysalis sulcata Canestrini & Fanzago, a hard tick. RCCE3 caused a cytopathic effect in C. capensis host cells, and it was transferred to Ixodes scapularis Say cell line ISE6 for maintenance. The rickettsial endosymbiont was eliminated from CCE3 by treatment with oxytetracycline, Cell lines from C. capensis will be useful to researchers investigating interactions between soft ticks and microorganisms, soft tick physiology, and molecular biology. The rickettsia adds to the growing number of Rickettsia species that have been isolated in tick cell culture, and it is available for characterization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1101
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of medical entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Chromosomes
  • Endosymbiont
  • Phylogeny
  • RCCE3
  • Seabird soft tick


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