Experimental & Applied Acarology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 263–289 | Cite as

Ultrastructure of the midgut and blood meal digestion in the adult tickDermacentor variabilis

  • Betty I. Tarnowski
  • Lewis B. Coons


Digestive cells in the midgut of male and femaleDermacentor variabilis (Say) took up the blood meal in coated vesicles and smooth flask-shaped vesicles, and deposited it in endosomes which were digested via heterophagy. Iron was concentrated in residual bodies.

Digestion occurred in three distinct phases in mated females: (1) continuous digestion (initiated by feeding) occurred during slow engorgement; (2) reduced digestion (initiated by mating) occurred in mated females during the period of rapid engorgement; (3) a second continuous digestion phase (initiated by detachment from the host) occurred throughout the post-feeding periods of preoviposition and oviposition.

It is proposed that the stem cells in the midguts of unfed females were progenitors of digestive, replacement, and presumed vitellogenic cells in midguts of mated feeding females. Digestive cells were present in all three digestion phases. Only during the first continuous digestion phase did digestive cells fill up with residual bodies, rupture and slough into the lumen, or did whole cells slough into the lumen. During the other two digestion phases no sloughing of digestive cells was observed. At the end of oviposition the digestive cells were filled with residual bodies. Replacement cells were present only during the first continuous-digestion phase. Presumed vitellogenic cells were present only during the reduced-digestion phase and during the second continuous-digestion phase. Stem cells in unfed males developed only into digestive cells in feeding males. Fed males and fed unmated females had only the first continuous-digestion phase. After being hand-detached from the host, unmated 13-day-fed females went through cellular changes associated with the reduced-digestion phase and second continuous-digestion phase of fed mated females, then began ovipositing. Maximum development of the basal labyrinth system and lateral spaces matched the known time of maximum water and ion movement across the midgut epithelia.

Spectrophotometric analyses of lumen contents and midgut cells, sampled after detachment from the host, showed that concentrations of protein and hemoglobin at day 1 post-detachment decreased by one-half at the beginning of oviposition, while hematin increased about twofold by the end of oviposition. This supported the idea of the presence of a second continuous-digestion phase.


Blood Meal Residual Body Hematin Digestive Cell Midgut Epithelium 
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Copyright information

© Elsevier Science Publishers B. V. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betty I. Tarnowski
    • 1
  • Lewis B. Coons
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OtolaryngologyMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentMemphis State UniversityMemphisUSA

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