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Molecular characterization and induced changes of histone acetyltransferases in the tick Haemaphysalis longicornis in response to cold stress.

BACKGROUND: Epigenetic modifications of histones play important roles in the response of eukaryotic organisms to environmental stress. However, many histone acetyltransferases (HATs), which are responsible for histone acetylation, and their roles in mediating the tick response to cold stress have yet to be identified. In the present study, HATs were molecularly characterized and their associations with the cold response of the tick Haemaphysalis longicornis explored.

METHODS: HATs were characterized by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based on published genome sequences, followed by multiple bioinformatic analyses. The differential expression of genes in H. longicornis under different cold treatment conditions was evaluated using reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). RNA interference was used to explore the association of HATs with the cold response of H. longicornis.

RESULTS: Two HAT genes were identified in H. longicornis (Hl), a GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase (henceforth HlGNAT) and a type B histone acetyltransferase (henceforth HlHAT-B), which are respectively 960 base pairs (bp) and 1239 bp in length. Bioinformatics analysis revealed that HlGNAT and HlHAT-B are unstable hydrophilic proteins characterized by the presence of the acetyltransferase 16 domain and Hat1_N domain, respectively. RT-qPCR revealed that the expression of HlGNAT and HlHAT-B decreased after 3 days of cold treatment, but gradually increased with a longer period of cold treatment. The mortality rate following knockdown of HlGNAT or HlHAT-B by RNA interference, which was confirmed by RT-qPCR, significantly increased (P < 0.05) when H. longicornis was treated at the lowest lethal temperature (- 14 °C) for 2 h.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings demonstrate that HATs may play a crucial role in the cold response of H. longicornis. Thus further research is warranted to explore the mechanisms underlying the epigenetic regulation of the cold response in ticks.

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