Triatomines are hematophagous insects and the vectors for Trypanosoma cruzi in the Americas. Although their preferred meal is blood from vertebrate hosts, unfed triatomine nymphs are often seen feeding on different arthropod species. Triatomine saliva has a wide range of activities that aid the hematophagic process. However, nothing is known about its role during hemolymphagy. In the current study, we reproduced hemolymphagy under laboratory conditions and evaluated the influence of hemolymphagy on the survival of Triatoma infestans nymphs. The effects of saliva on the activation of the prophenoloxidase cascade in the invertebrate host and the influence of the saliva on the motility of the bugs and contractions of the dorsal vessels were assessed. Hemolymphagy prolonged the survival rate of T. infestans first instars from 60 to >120 d compared with unfed nymphs. The saliva from T. infestans caused a 50% reduction in the amplitude and frequency of the dorsal vessel contractions of adult Rhodnius prolixus and induced paralysis for >10 min when the saliva was injected into second instars. T. infestans saliva was able to inhibit the activation of the prophenoloxidase cascade from a R. prolixus hemolymph, but had no effect on the phenoloxidase activity after the cascade was activated. The paralyzing molecule in the saliva was <5 kDa and probably had no proteic or lipidie characteristics. These results suggest that triatomine saliva may play an important role during hemolymphagy by inducing paralysis and suppressing immune responses in the invertebrate host. The importance of hemolymphagy for the survival of nymphs in periods when vertebrate blood is scarce is also discussed.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2