Mitogenomes reveal diversity of the European Lyme borreliosis vector Ixodes ricinus in Italy
Reference: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (2016) 101: 194-202.

In Europe, the Ixodes ricinus tick is the most important vector of the etiological agents of Lyme borreliosis and several other emerging tick-borne diseases. Because tick-borne pathogens are dependent on their vectors for transmission, understanding the vector population structure is crucial to inform public health research of pathogen dynamics and spread. However, the population structure and dynamics of this important vector species are not well understood as most genetic studies utilize short mitochondrial and nuclear sequences with little diversity. Herein we obtained and analyzed complete mitochondrial genome (hereafter "mitogenome") sequences to better understand the genetic diversity and the population structure of I. ricinus from two long-standing tick-borne disease foci in northern Italy. Complete mitogenomes of 23 I. ricinus ticks were sequenced at high coverage. Out of 23 mitogenome sequences we identified 17 unique haplotypes composed of 244 segregating sites. Phylogenetic reconstruction using 18 complete mitogenome sequences revealed the coexistence of four highly divergent I. ricinus maternal lineages despite the narrow spatial scale over which these samples were obtained (100 km). Notably, the estimated coalescence time of the 18 mitogenome haplotypes is 427 thousand years ago (95% HPD 330, 540). This divergence between I. ricinus lineages is consistent with the mitochondrial diversity of other arthropod vector species and indicates that long-term I. ricinus populations may have been less structured and larger than previously thought. Thus, this study suggests that a rapid and accurate retrieval of full mitochondrial genomes from this disease vector enables fine-resolution studies of tick intraspecies genetic relationships, population differentiation, and demographic history. 


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Carpi G., Kitchen A., Kim H. L., Ratan A., Moses D., McGraw J. J., Kazimirova M., Rizzoli A., Schuster S. C.