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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptHHS Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
Pathog Dis. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 July 1.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC3780442

Genome Sequences of 65 Helicobacter pylori Strains Isolated from Asymptomatic Individuals and Patients with Gastric Cancer, Peptic Ulcer Disease, or Gastritis


Helicobacter pylori, inhabitant of the gastric mucosa of over half of the world population, with decreasing prevalence in the U.S., has been associated with a variety of gastric pathologies. However, the majority of H. pylori infected individuals remain asymptomatic and negative correlations between H. pylori and allergic diseases have been reported. Comprehensive genome characterization of H. pylori populations from different human host backgrounds including healthy individuals provides the exciting potential to generate new insights into the open question whether human health outcome is associated with specific H. pylori genotypes or dependent on other environmental factors. We report the genome sequences of 65 Helicobacter pylori isolates from individuals with gastric cancer, preneoplastic lesions, peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, and from asymptomatic adults. Isolates were collected from multiple locations in North America (USA and Canada) as well as from Columbia and Japan. The availability of these H. pylori genome sequences from individuals with distinct clinical presentations provides the research community with a resource for detailed investigations into genetic elements that correlate either positively or negatively with the epidemiology, human host adaptation and gastric pathogenesis, and will aid in the characterization of strains that may favor the development of specific pathology, including gastric cancer.

The Gram-negative bacterium Helicobacter pylori has been colonizing the gastric mucosa of modern humans since their migration out of Africa 60,000 years ago (Linz et al., 2007). Infection is typically established in childhood, maintained for life and invariably results in histologic gastritis (Dooley et al., 1989, Dehesa et al., 1991, Marshall, 1995, Suerbaum & Michetti, 2002). H. pylori has been identified as the etiologic agent of most peptic ulcer disease (Marshall & Warren, 1984, NIH, 1994), can cause gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma (Wotherspoon et al., 1991, Genta et al., 1993) and is a risk factor for the development of gastric adenocarcinoma (Parsonnet et al., 1991, Talley et al., 1991). The World Health Organization lists H. pylori as a Class I carcinogen (World Health Organization, 1994). Today, over 50% of the world population is colonized by H. pylori, with infection rates ranging from as high as 90% in developing nations to less than 10% in children from Western populations (Roosendaal et al., 1997). However, less than 20% of all infected individuals will develop H. pylori-associated disease. Additionally, although significantly associated with deaths due to gastric cancer, colonization is not linked to increased all-cause mortality in the U.S. (Chen et al., 2013). A negative association between H. pylori colonization and the occurrence of asthma and allergy has also been reported (Zevit et al., 2012). Whether the background of the infected host is responsible for the different H. pylori-associated health effects (human genotype, diet, influence of the surrounding stomach microbiota), or whether the outcome of H. pylori colonization is determined by the genotype of the infecting H. pylori strain remains an open question. Today, gastric cancer remains a leading cause of death in many developing and advanced nations (Yamaoka et al., 2008).

The mechanisms of H. pylori pathogenesis are complex. While some factors such as the Type IV Secretion System and the CagA oncoprotein have been demonstrated to play a role in inflammation and carcinogenesis (Rieder et al., 1997, Odenbreit et al., 2000, Fischer et al., 2001, Kwok et al., 2007, Ohnishi et al., 2008, Jimenez-Soto et al., 2009), few other virulence factors have been identified that explain why certain infections cause disease, or which specific disease will develop. The H. pylori genome is diverse, typically carrying plasticity zones that vary between strains (Tomb et al., 1997, Alm et al., 1999, Occhialini et al., 2000, Kersulyte et al., 2009). In light of the unclear role of H. pylori for human health, genome sequencing of H. pylori strains isolated from individuals with different disease backgrounds, including asymptomatic carriers, can be used to identify potential H. pylori genotypes associated with specific human host disease phenotypes. We sequenced the genomes of 65 clinical H. pylori isolates recovered from subjects in geographically diverse locations with distinct clinical outcomes, including seven strains recovered from post-menopausal asymptomatic women (Table 1).

Table 1
Sequenced H. pylori genomes.

Genomic DNA was isolated from H. pylori plate cultures spread on Columbia Blood Agar using Genomic tip-20/G DNA isolation kits (Qiagen, Germantown, MD) and sequenced at the Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine ( A hybrid sequencing approach was used combining data from 3-kb insert paired-end libraries sequenced on the 454 GS FLX Titanium platform (Roche, Branford, CT) and 300–400 bp insert paired-end libraries sequenced with 100bp read length on the HiSeq 2000 platform (Illumina, San Diego, CA). On average 27.5-fold genome coverage of 454 and 38.6-fold coverage of Illumina sequence data was used to create draft genome assemblies with the Celera assembler ( consisting of between 2 and 14 scaffolds per genome (average: 8.6 scaffolds) (Table 1). Draft genomes were annotated with the IGS Annotation Engine pipeline ( Between 1557 and 1831 genes were identified per genome, similar to gene numbers predicted for previously sequenced H. pylori genomes (McClain et al., 2009). Evolutionary relationships of all sequenced isolates were analyzed by whole-genome alignment with the Mugsy tool (Angiuoli & Salzberg, 2011) followed by alignment processing (concatenation, removal of gap-containing positions) with Phylomark (Sahl et al., 2012) and phylogenetic tree prediction with FastTree 2 (Price et al., 2010). This method identified a core alignment of 73kbp length consisting of multiple syntenic sequence blocks shared between all 65 compared genomes.

Phylogenetic analysis of the 65 newly sequenced H. pylori genomes revealed that the evolutionary relationships of the selected strains are not entirely determined by either the human host gastric health background (Fig. 1A) or geographic location (Fig. 1B). Only eight H. pylori isolates, which comprise strains isolated from patients with advanced stages of H. pylori-associated disease, i.e. peptic ulcer disease (4 isolates) or gastric cancer (4 isolates) and represent the only isolates from Japan, are phylogenetically distinct from all other isolates. These isolates share a unique, relatively recent, common ancestor, i.e. they are more closely related to each other than to any of the other isolates. An East Asian H. pylori lineage that diverged from European and Amerind lineage ancestors was also reported by Kawai et al. (2011). The remaining strains did not cluster by clinical outcome or by geographic location, suggesting that, based on the presented data, the evolution of sublineages within the H. pylori species is not associated with the development of more or less pathogenic potential. However, additional genome sequences from a larger number of H. pylori isolates from disparate parts of the world and from patients with distinct pathologies and including asymptomatic donors will be required to conclusively determine the role of H. pylori species evolution for human health.

Figure 1
Evolutionary relationships of sequenced H. pylori strains

Using the animal isolate H. felis ATCC 49179 as an outgroup (Genbank accession number: FQ670179), 64 out of 65 isolates could be assigned to one of two sublineages within the H. pylori species. One sublineage contained a single isolate from an asymptomatic patient collected in Alberta, Canada, as well as 30 isolates collected from a diverse patient population in Cleveland, OH, USA presenting with gastritis, gastric ulcers, or duodenal ulcers. The second sublineage contained the remaining eleven isolates from the U.S. collection, the eight isolates from Japanese patients, seven isolates from Colombian patients with gastritis presenting with various stages of premalignant lesions, and six isolates from asymptomatic patients collected in Alberta, Canada. Interestingly, all H. pylori isolates are separated on the phylogenetic tree by relatively large unique branches. In most cases, any two H. pylori strains show a greater phylogenetic distance from their last common ancestor than different ancestors have from each other, suggesting that the sequenced isolates, although collected in four different countries from three continents, represent a very small fraction of the existing diversity within prevalent H. pylori populations.

In addition to allowing new insights into the genome evolution of the H. pylori species, the genome sequence data from 65 newly sequenced H. pylori strains provides a new, valuable resource for comparative genome analysis in order to elucidate the genetic markers of virulence, adaptability, antibiotic resistance, and epidemiology in this species.


This project has been funded in part with federal funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services under contract number HHSN272200900009C, by National Institutes of Health grants AI055710, AI082655, DK46461, and CA028842.


Nucleotide sequence accession numbers. The genome sequence data have been deposited in Genbank with accession numbers identified in Table 1. This information is also available through the Institute for Genomic Sciences at the University of Maryland in Baltimore at the following site:


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