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Haemoglobin crystals in the midgut of the tick Ornithodorus moubata Murray

Naturevolume 266pages536538 (1977) | Download Citation



Ticks of the Ornithodorus moubata Murray (Ixodoidea, Argasidae) complex, distributed through East Africa, are known as vectors of African relapsing fever1. A laboratory strain of O. moubata porcinus (originally from Tanzania and bred according to the method of Geigy and Herbig1) uses the guinea-pig (Cavia porcellus L.) as experimental host. Guinea pig blood crystallises more easily than that of other hosts2 in the gut of blood-sucking arthropods3. In O. moubata crystals appear 5–10 d after the blood meal, first small (0.015–0.05 mm) and clear red, later up to 0.2 mm in all three directions and dark red. These ‘tick-grown’ crystals may still be present after even more than a year. They possibly serve as nutrient reserve4 since they finally disappear after prolonged starvation. We describe here a study of the formation and structure of these crystals and the changes within these crystals with time. We show the crystals to be composed principally of guinea-pig haemoglobin.

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  1. Department of Structure Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 70, CH-4056, Basel

    • J. D. G. SMIT
  2. Institute of Zoology, University of Neuchâtel, 11 rue Emile–Argard, CH-2000, Neuchâtel

  3. SEM-Laboratory, University of Basel, Bernoullistrasse 32, CH-4056, Basel

  4. Friedrich-Miescher-Institute, PO Box 273, CH-4002, Basel, Switzerland



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