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Transcriptomic analysis of the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, across all stages of the lifecycle

Published: 2021


  • Kathryn Bartley

  • Wan Chen

  • Richard I. Lloyd Mills

  • Francesca Nunn

  • Daniel R. G. Price

  • Stephane Rombauts

  • Yves Van de Peer

  • Lise Roy

  • Alasdair J. Nisbet

  • Stewart T. G. Burgess


The blood feeding poultry red mite (PRM), Dermanyssus gallinae, causes substantial economic damage to the egg laying industry worldwide, and is a serious welfare concern for laying hens and poultry house workers. In this study we have investigated the temporal gene expression across the 6 stages/sexes (egg, larvae, protonymph and deutonymph, adult male and adult female) of this neglected parasite in order to understand the temporal expression associated with development, parasitic lifestyle, reproduction and allergen expression.

RNA-seq transcript data for the 6 stages were mapped to the PRM genome creating a publicly available gene expression atlas (on the OrcAE platform in conjunction with the PRM genome). Network analysis and clustering of stage-enriched gene expression in PRM resulted in 17 superclusters with stage-specific or multi-stage expression profiles. The 6 stage specific superclusters were clearly demarked from each other and the adult female supercluster contained the most stage specific transcripts (2725), whilst the protonymph supercluster the fewest (165). Fifteen pairwise comparisons performed between the different stages resulted in a total of 6025 Differentially Expressed Genes (DEGs) (P > 0.99). These data were evaluated alongside a Venn/Euler analysis of the top 100 most abundant genes in each stage. An expanded set of cuticle proteins and enzymes (chitinase and metallocarboxypeptidases) were identified in larvae and underpin cuticle formation and ecdysis to the protonymph stage. Two mucin/peritrophic-A salivary proteins (DEGAL6771g00070, DEGAL6824g00220) were highly expressed in the blood-feeding stages, indicating peritrophic membrane formation during feeding. Reproduction-associated vitellogenins were the most abundant transcripts in adult females whilst, in adult males, an expanded set of serine and cysteine proteinases and an epididymal protein (DEGAL6668g00010) were highly abundant. Assessment of the expression patterns of putative homologues of 32 allergen groups from house dust mites indicated a bias in their expression towards the non-feeding larval stage of PRM.

This study is the first evaluation of temporal gene expression across all stages of PRM and has provided insight into developmental, feeding, reproduction and survival strategies employed by this mite. The publicly available PRM resource on OrcAE offers a valuable tool for researchers investigating the biology and novel interventions of this parasite.

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