We present the genome sequences of three hpAfrica2 strains of Helicobacter pylori, which are postulated to have evolved in isolation for many millennia in people of San ethnicity. Although previously considered to be ancestral to Helicobacter acinonychis, the hpAfrica2 strains differ markedly from H. acinonychis in their gene arrangement. These data provide new insights into Helicobacter evolution.
Helicobacter pylori contains four genes that are predicted to encode proteins secreted by the autotransporter (type V) pathway. One of these, the pore-forming toxin VacA, has been studied in great detail, but thus far there has been very little investigation of three VacA-like proteins. We show here that all three VacA-like proteins are >250 kDa in mass and localized on the surface of H. pylori. The expression of the three vacA-like genes is upregulated during H. pylori colonization of the mouse stomach compared to H. pylori growth in vitro, and a wild-type H. pylori strain outcompeted each of the three corresponding isogenic mutant strains in its ability to colonize the mouse stomach. One of the VacA-like proteins localizes to a sheath that overlies the flagellar filament and bulb, and therefore, we designate it FaaA (flagella-associated autotransporter A). In comparison to a wild-type H. pylori strain, an isogenic faaA mutant strain exhibits decreased motility, decreased flagellar stability, and an increased proportion of flagella in a nonpolar site. The flagellar localization of FaaA differs markedly from the localization of other known autotransporters, and the current results reveal an important role of FaaA in flagellar localization and motility.
The pathogenesis of most bacterial infections is dependent on the actions of secreted proteins, and proteins secreted by the autotransporter pathway constitute the largest family of secreted proteins in pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria. In this study, we analyzed three autotransporter proteins (VacA-like proteins) produced by Helicobacter pylori, a Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human stomach and contributes to the pathogenesis of gastric cancer and peptic ulcer disease. We demonstrate that these three proteins each enhance the capacity of H. pylori to colonize the stomach. Unexpectedly, one of these proteins (FaaA) is localized to a sheath that overlies H. pylori flagella. The absence of FaaA results in decreased H. pylori motility as well as a reduction in flagellar stability and a change in flagellar localization. The atypical localization of FaaA reflects a specialized function of this autotransporter designed to optimize H. pylori colonization of the gastric niche.
H. pylori infection is usually acquired in childhood, but little is known about its natural history in asymptomatic children, primarily due to the paucity of non-invasive diagnostic methods. H. pylori strains harboring cagA and specific alleles of hopQ and vacA are associated with increased risk for gastric cancer. Many studies of H. pylori virulence markers in children have the bias that symptomatic subjects are selected for endoscopy, and these children may harbor the most virulent strains. Our aim: to genotype cagA, hopQ and vacA alleles in stool DNA samples of healthy Colombian children residing in an area with high incidence of gastric cancer, in order to avoid selection bias resulting from endoscopy.
H. pylori status of 86 asymptomatic children was assessed by 13C-Urea Breath Test (UBT) and PCR. H. pylori 16S rRNA, cagA, hopQ and vacA genes were amplified from stool DNA samples and sequenced.
UBT was positive in 69 (80.2%) of 86 children; in stool DNA analysis, 78.3% were positive by 16S rRNA PCR. cagA, vacA and hopQ were detected in 66.1%, 84.6%, and 72.3% of stool DNA samples from 16S rRNA positive children. Of the children's DNA samples which revealed vacA and hopQ alleles, 91.7% showed vacA s1 and 73.7% showed type I hopQ. Type I hopQ alleles were associated with cagA-positivity and vacA s1 genotypes (P<0.0001).
Using stool DNA samples, virulence markers of H. pylori were successfully genotyped in a high percentage of the asymptomatic infected children, revealing a high prevalence of genotypes associated with virulence. Type I hopQ alleles were associated with the presence of cagA and the vacA s1 genotype.
LuxS may function as a metabolic enzyme or as the synthase of a quorum sensing signalling molecule, auto-inducer-2 (AI-2); hence, the mechanism underlying phenotypic changes upon luxS inactivation is not always clear. In Helicobacter pylori, we have recently shown that, rather than functioning in recycling methionine as in most bacteria, LuxS (along with newly-characterised MccA and MccB), synthesises cysteine via reverse transsulphuration. In this study, we investigated whether and how LuxS controls motility of H. pylori, specifically if it has its effects via luxS-required cysteine metabolism or via AI-2 synthesis only.
We report that disruption of luxS renders H. pylori non-motile in soft agar and by microscopy, whereas disruption of mccAHp or mccBHp (other genes in the cysteine provision pathway) does not, implying that the lost phenotype is not due to disrupted cysteine provision. The motility defect of the ΔluxSHp mutant was complemented genetically by luxSHp and also by addition of in vitro synthesised AI-2 or 4, 5-dihydroxy-2, 3-pentanedione (DPD, the precursor of AI-2). In contrast, exogenously added cysteine could not restore motility to the ΔluxSHp mutant, confirming that AI-2 synthesis, but not the metabolic effect of LuxS was important. Microscopy showed reduced number and length of flagella in the ΔluxSHp mutant. Immunoblotting identified decreased levels of FlaA and FlgE but not FlaB in the ΔluxSHp mutant, and RT-PCR showed that the expression of flaA, flgE, motA, motB, flhA and fliI but not flaB was reduced. Addition of DPD but not cysteine to the ΔluxSHp mutant restored flagellar gene transcription, and the number and length of flagella.
Our data show that as well as being a metabolic enzyme, H. pylori LuxS has an alternative role in regulation of motility by modulating flagellar transcripts and flagellar biosynthesis through production of the signalling molecule AI-2.
Helicobacter pylori infection and consumption of a high-salt diet are each associated with an increased risk for the development of gastric cancer. To investigate potential synergism between these factors, we used a global proteomic approach to analyze H. pylori strains cultured in media containing varying salt concentrations. Among the differentially expressed proteins identified, CagA exhibited the greatest increase in expression in response to high salt concentrations. Analysis of 36 H. pylori strains isolated from patients in two regions of Colombia with differing incidences of gastric cancer revealed marked differences among strains in salt-responsive CagA expression. Sequence analysis of the cagA promoter region in these strains revealed a DNA motif (TAATGA) that was present in either one or two copies. Salt-induced upregulation of CagA expression was detected more commonly in strains containing two copies of the TAATGA motif than in strains containing one copy. Mutagenesis experiments confirmed that two copies of the TAATGA motif are required for salt-induced upregulation of CagA expression. In summary, there is considerable heterogeneity among H. pylori strains in salt-regulated CagA expression, and these differences are attributable to variation in a specific DNA motif upstream of the cagA transcriptional start site.
Helicobacter pylori causes clinical disease primarily in those individuals infected with a strain that carries the cytotoxin associated gene pathogenicity island (cagPAI). The cagPAI encodes a type IV secretion system (T4SS) that injects the CagA oncoprotein into epithelial cells and is required for induction of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-8 (IL-8). CagY is an essential component of the H. pylori T4SS that has an unusual sequence structure, in which an extraordinary number of direct DNA repeats is predicted to cause rearrangements that invariably yield in-frame insertions or deletions. Here we demonstrate in murine and non-human primate models that immune-driven host selection of rearrangements in CagY is sufficient to cause gain or loss of function in the H. pylori T4SS. We propose that CagY functions as a sort of molecular switch or perhaps a rheostat that alters the function of the T4SS and “tunes” the host inflammatory response so as to maximize persistent infection.
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that colonizes the stomach of about half the world's population, most of whom are asymptomatic. However, some strains of H. pylori express a bacterial secretion system, a sort of molecular syringe that injects a bacterial protein inside the gastric cells and causes inflammation that can lead to peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer. One of the essential components of the H. pylori secretion system is CagY, which is unusual because it contains a series of repetitive amino acid motifs that are encoded by a very large number of direct DNA repeats. Here we have shown that DNA recombination in cagY changes the protein motif structure and alters the function of the secretion system—turning it on or off. Using mouse and non-human primate models, we have demonstrated that CagY is a molecular switch that “tunes” the host inflammatory response, and likely contributes to persistent infection. Determining the mechanism by which CagY functions will enhance our understanding of the effects of H. pylori on human health, and could lead to novel applications for the modulation of host cell function.
Helicobacter pylori is a gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human stomach and contributes to the development of gastric cancer and peptic ulcer disease. VacA, a toxin secreted by H. pylori, is comprised of two domains, designated p33 and p55. Analysis of the crystal structure of the p55 domain indicated that its structure is predominantly a right-handed parallel β-helix, which is a characteristic of autotransporter passenger domains. Substitution mutations of specific amino acids within the p33 domain abrogate VacA activity, but thus far, it has been difficult to identify small inactivating mutations within the p55 domain. Therefore, we hypothesized that large portions of the p55 domain might be non-essential for vacuolating toxin activity. To test this hypothesis, we introduced eight deletion mutations (each corresponding to a single coil within a β-helical segment spanning VacA amino acids 433-628) into the H. pylori chromosomal vacA gene.
All eight of the mutant VacA proteins were expressed by the corresponding H. pylori mutant strains and underwent proteolytic processing to yield ~85 kDa passenger domains. Three mutant proteins (VacA Δ484-504, Δ511-536, and Δ517-544) were secreted and induced vacuolation of mammalian cells, which indicated that these β-helical coils were dispensable for vacuolating toxin activity. One mutant protein (VacA Δ433-461) exhibited reduced vacuolating toxin activity compared to wild-type VacA. Other mutant proteins, including those containing deletions near the carboxy-terminal end of the β-helical region (amino acids Val559-Asn628), exhibited marked defects in secretion and increased susceptibility to proteolytic cleavage by trypsin, which suggested that these proteins were misfolded.
These results indicate that within the β-helical segment of the VacA p55 domain, there are regions of plasticity that tolerate alterations without detrimental effects on protein secretion or activity, as well as a carboxy-terminal region in which similar alterations result in protein misfolding and impaired secretion. We propose that non-essential β-helical coils and a carboxy-terminal β-helical segment required for proper protein folding and secretion are features shared by numerous autotransporter passenger domains.
Helicobacter pylori genomes contain about 30 hop genes that encode outer membrane proteins. H. pylori hopQ alleles exhibit a high level of genetic diversity, and two families of hopQ alleles have been described. Type I hopQ alleles are found more commonly in cag-positive H. pylori strains from patients with peptic ulcer disease than in cag-negative strains from patients without ulcer disease. In this study, we mutated hopQ in four H. pylori strains that each contained a type I hopQ allele, and then analyzed interactions of the wild-type and hopQ mutant strains with AGS cells. In comparison to the wild-type strains, two of the hopQ mutant strains exhibited increased adherence to AGS cells and two hopQ mutants did not exhibit any detectable differences in adherence. Higher levels of tyrosine-phosphorylated CagA were detected when AGS cells were co-cultured with a hyper-adherent hopQ mutant strain than when co-cultured with the corresponding wild-type strain. These data indicate that in some strains of H. pylori, the HopQ protein can attenuate bacterial adherence to gastric epithelial cells.
Helicobacter pylori; HopQ; adherence; CagA
Colonization of the human stomach with Helicobacter pylori is a risk factor for peptic ulceration, noncardia gastric adenocarcinoma, and gastric lymphoma. The secreted VacA toxin is an important H. pylori virulence factor that causes multiple alterations in gastric epithelial cells and T cells. Several families of vacA alleles have been described, and H. pylori strains containing certain vacA types (s1, i1, and m1) are associated with an increased risk of gastric disease, compared to strains containing other vacA types (s2, i2, and m2). Thus far, there has been relatively little study of the role of the VacA intermediate region (i-region) in toxin activity. In this study, we compared the ability of i1 and i2 forms of VacA to cause functional alterations in Jurkat cells. To do this, we manipulated the chromosomal vacA gene in two H. pylori strains to introduce alterations in the region encoding the VacA i-region. We did not detect any differences in the capacity of i1 and i2 forms of VacA to cause vacuolation of RK13 cells. In comparison to i1 forms of VacA, i2 forms of VacA had a diminished capacity to inhibit the activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) and suppress interleukin-2 (IL-2) production. Correspondingly, i2 forms of VacA bound to Jurkat cells less avidly than did i1 forms of VacA. These results indicate that the VacA i-region is an important determinant of VacA effects on human T cell function.
Persistent colonization of the human stomach by Helicobacter pylori is associated with asymptomatic gastric inflammation (gastritis) and an increased risk of duodenal ulceration, gastric ulceration, and non-cardia gastric cancer. In previous studies, the genome sequences of H. pylori strains from patients with gastritis or duodenal ulcer disease have been analyzed. In this study, we analyzed the genome sequences of an H. pylori strain (98-10) isolated from a patient with gastric cancer and an H. pylori strain (B128) isolated from a patient with gastric ulcer disease.
Based on multilocus sequence typing, strain 98-10 was most closely related to H. pylori strains of East Asian origin and strain B128 was most closely related to strains of European origin. Strain 98-10 contained multiple features characteristic of East Asian strains, including a type s1c vacA allele and a cagA allele encoding an EPIYA-D tyrosine phosphorylation motif. A core genome of 1237 genes was present in all five strains for which genome sequences were available. Among the 1237 core genes, a subset of alleles was highly divergent in the East Asian strain 98-10, encoding proteins that exhibited <90% amino acid sequence identity compared to corresponding proteins in the other four strains. Unique strain-specific genes were identified in each of the newly sequenced strains, and a set of strain-specific genes was shared among H. pylori strains associated with gastric cancer or premalignant gastric lesions.
These data provide insight into the diversity that exists among H. pylori strains from diverse clinical and geographic origins. Highly divergent alleles and strain-specific genes identified in this study may represent useful biomarkers for analyzing geographic partitioning of H. pylori and for identifying strains capable of inducing malignant or premalignant gastric lesions.
Gastric adenocarcinoma is strongly associated with Helicobacter pylori infection; however, most infected persons never develop this malignancy. H. pylori strains harboring the cag pathogenicity island (cag+), which encodes CagA and a type IV secretion system (T4SS), induce more severe disease outcomes. H. pylori infection is also associated with iron deficiency, which similarly augments gastric cancer risk. To define the influence of iron deficiency on microbial virulence in gastric carcinogenesis, Mongolian gerbils were maintained on iron-depleted diets and infected with an oncogenic H. pylori
cag+ strain. Iron depletion accelerated the development of H. pylori–induced premalignant and malignant lesions in a cagA-dependent manner. H. pylori strains harvested from iron-depleted gerbils or grown under iron-limiting conditions exhibited enhanced virulence and induction of inflammatory factors. Further, in a human population at high risk for gastric cancer, H. pylori strains isolated from patients with the lowest ferritin levels induced more robust proinflammatory responses compared with strains isolated from patients with the highest ferritin levels, irrespective of histologic status. These data demonstrate that iron deficiency enhances H. pylori virulence and represents a measurable biomarker to identify populations of infected persons at high risk for gastric cancer.
Helicobacter pylori is a gram-negative bacterium that persistently colonizes more than half of the global human population. In order to successfully colonize the human stomach, H. pylori must initially overcome multiple innate host defenses. Remarkably, H. pylori can persistently colonize the stomach for decades or an entire lifetime despite development of an acquired immune response. This review focuses on the immune response to H. pylori and the mechanisms by which H. pylori resists immune clearance. Three main sections of the review are devoted to (i) analysis of the immune response to H. pylori in humans, (ii) analysis of interactions of H. pylori with host immune defenses in animal models, and (iii) interactions of H. pylori with immune cells in vitro. The topics addressed in this review are important for understanding how H. pylori resists immune clearance and also are relevant for understanding the pathogenesis of diseases caused by H. pylori (peptic ulcer disease, gastric adenocarcinoma, and gastric lymphoma).
Human CD4+ T cells are major targets for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Resting T cells are resistant to HIV infection unless activated through the T-cell receptor (TCR) or by cytokine signals. How T-cell signaling promotes susceptibility of T cells to HIV infection remains poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that the VacA toxin produced by Helicobacter pylori can inhibit HIV infection of primary T cells, stimulated through the TCR or by cytokines alone. This activity of VacA was dependent on its ability to form membrane channels. VacA suppressed HIV infection of T cells at a stage after viral entry, post-reverse transcription and pre-two-long-terminal-repeat circle formation, similar to the cytokine signaling inhibitor rapamycin. Mechanistically, neither VacA nor rapamycin inhibited the activation of cytokine signal transduction components (STAT5, p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinase, or p38), but both blocked activation of key regulatory proteins required for G1 cell cycle transition. In contrast to rapamycin, VacA did not suppress phosphorylation of p70 S6 kinase but caused mitochondrial depolarization and ATP depletion within primary T cells. These results suggest that VacA inhibits T-cell activation and HIV infection via a novel mechanism. Identifying the host cell targets of VacA could be useful for elucidating the HIV life cycle within primary T cells.
In this study, we investigated a potential requirement of two-component signal transduction systems for acid resistance in Helicobacter pylori. In comparison to a wild-type strain, isogenic strains with null mutations in either HP0165 or HP1364 histidine kinases were impaired in their ability to grow at pH 5.0. The growth of complemented mutant strains was similar to that of the wild-type strain. H. pylori DNA array analyses and transcriptional reporter assays indicated that acid-responsive gene transcription was altered in the HP0165 and HP1364 null mutant strains compared to the parental wild-type strain. These results indicate that intact HP0165 and HP1364 histidine kinases are required for acid resistance in H. pylori.
Helicobacter pylori infection is a risk factor for the development of gastric cancer, and the bacterial oncoprotein CagA contributes to gastric carcinogenesis.
We analyzed H. pylori isolates from persons in Colombia and observed that there was marked variation among strains in levels of CagA expression. To elucidate the basis for this variation, we analyzed sequences upstream from the CagA translational initiation site in each strain.
A DNA motif (AATAAGATA) upstream of the translational initiation site of CagA was associated with high levels of CagA expression. Experimental studies showed that this motif was necessary but not sufficient for high-level CagA expression. H. pylori strains from a region of Colombia with high gastric cancer rates expressed higher levels of CagA than did strains from a region with lower gastric cancer rates, and Colombian strains of European phylogeographic origin expressed higher levels of CagA than did strains of African origin. Histopathological analysis of gastric biopsy specimens revealed that strains expressing high levels of CagA or containing the AATAAGATA motif were associated with more advanced precancerous lesions than those found in persons infected with strains expressing low levels of CagA or lacking the AATAAGATA motif.
CagA expression varies greatly among H. pylori strains. The DNA motif identified in this study is associated with high levels of CagA expression, and may be a useful biomarker to predict gastric cancer risk.
These findings help to explain why some persons infected with cagA-positive H. pylori develop gastric cancer and others do not.
Helicobacter pylori; CagA; gastric cancer; Colombia
Chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori strains expressing the bacterial oncoprotein CagA confers an increased risk of gastric cancer. While much is known about the ancestry and molecular evolution of Western, East Asian, and Amerindian cagA sequences, relatively little is understood about a fourth group, known as “J-Western,” which has been detected mainly in strains from Okinawa, Japan. We show here that J-Western cagA sequences have a more widespread global distribution than previously recognized, occur in strains with multiple different ancestral origins (based on multilocus sequence typing [MLST] analysis), and did not arise recently. As shown by comparisons of Western and J-Western forms of CagA, there are 45 fixed or nearly fixed amino acid differences, and J-Western forms contain a unique 4-amino-acid insertion. The mean nucleotide diversity of synonymous sites (πs) is slightly lower in the J-Western group than in the Western and East Asian groups (0.066, 0.086, and 0.083, respectively), which suggests that the three groups have comparable, but not equivalent, effective population sizes. The reduced πs of the J-Western group is attributable to ancestral recombination events within the 5′ region of cagA. Population genetic analyses suggest that within the cagA region encoding EPIYA motifs, the East Asian group underwent a marked reduction in effective population size compared to the Western and J-Western groups, in association with positive selection. Finally, we show that J-Western cagA sequences are found mainly in strains producing m2 forms of the secreted VacA toxin and propose that these functionally interacting proteins coevolved to optimize the gastric colonization capacity of H. pylori.
VacA is a secreted toxin that plays a role in Helicobacter pylori colonization of the stomach and that contributes to the pathogenesis of peptic ulcer disease. Studies of VacA structure and function have been hindered by the lack of an efficient system for expression and genetic manipulation of this toxin. In this study, we developed methodology for expression of a functionally active VacA toxin in Escherichia coli. We then used a high-throughput screen to analyze a library of mutant toxins with pentapeptide insertions and identified six mutants that lacked the capacity to induce vacuolation of HeLa cells. The capacity to analyze VacA in this heterologous-expression system should greatly facilitate efforts to elucidate the structure and function of this toxin.
Helicobacter pylori genomes contain about 30 different hop genes, which encode outer membrane proteins. In this study, we analyzed genetic diversity in the H. pylori hopQ (omp27) locus, which corresponds to HP1177 in the genome of H. pylori reference strain 26695. hopQ and its flanking genes were PCR amplified from multiple H. pylori strains, and the nucleotide sequences were determined. This analysis revealed the existence of two different families of hopQ alleles. Type I hopQ alleles are present in the genomes of two fully sequenced H. pylori strains, whereas the existence of type II hopQ alleles has not previously been recognized. Type I and type II hopQ alleles are 75 to 80% identical in nucleotide sequences and encode predicted outer membrane proteins that are 68 to 72% identical in amino acid sequences. PCR-based methods were developed to enable rapid differentiation between type I and type II hopQ alleles. Type I hopQ alleles were found significantly more commonly in cag+/type s1-vacA strains from patients with peptic ulcer disease than in cag-negative/s2-vacA strains from patients without ulcer disease (P < 0.001). Determination of hopQ allelic types provides a new method for classification of H. pylori strains. Further studies in multiple populations of patients are indicated to evaluate the usefulness of this approach for distinguishing potentially ulcerogenic H. pylori strains from less virulent strains.
Background & Aims
Colonization of gastric mucosa by Helicobacter pylori leads to epithelial hyperproliferation, which increases the risk for gastric adenocarcinoma. One H. pylori virulence locus associated with cancer risk, cag, encodes a secretion system that transports effectors into host cells and leads to aberrant activation of β-catenin and p120-catenin (p120). Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)δ is a ligand-activated transcription factor that affects oncogenesis in conjunction with β-catenin. We used a carcinogenic H. pylori strain to define the role of microbial virulence constituents and PPARδ in regulating epithelial responses that mediate development of adenocarcinoma.
Gastric epithelial cells or colonies were co-cultured with the H. pylori cag+ strain 7.13 or cagE−, cagA−, slt−, or cagA−/slt− mutants. Levels of PPARδ and Cyclin E1 were determined by real-time, reverse transcription PCR, immunoblot analysis, or immunofluorescence microscopy; proliferation was measured in 3-dimensional culture. PPARδ and Ki67 expression were determined by immunohistochemical analysis of human biopsies and rodent gastric mucosa.
H. pylori induced β-catenin- and p120-dependent expression and activation of PPARδ in gastric epithelial cells, which were mediated by the cag secretion system substrates CagA and peptidoglycan. H. pylori stimulated proliferation in vitro, which required PPARδ-mediated activation of Cyclin E1; H. pylori did not induce expression of Cyclin E1 in a genetic model of PPARδ deficiency. PPARδ expression and proliferation in rodent and human gastric tissue was selectively induced by cag+ strains and PPARδ levels normalized following eradication of H. pylori.
The H. pylori cag secretion system activates β-catenin, p120, and PPARδ, which promote gastric epithelial cell proliferation via activation of Cyclin E1. PPARδ might contribute to gastric adenocarcinoma development in humans.
stomach cancer; Mongolian gerbils; signaling; bacteria
Helicobacter pylori is a Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human stomach and contributes to the development of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. The secreted pore-forming toxin VacA is one of the major virulence factors of H. pylori. In the current study, we show that AZ-521 human gastric epithelial cells are highly susceptible to VacA-induced cell death. Wild-type VacA causes death of these cells, whereas mutant VacA proteins defective in membrane channel formation do not. Incubation of AZ-521 cells with wild-type VacA results in cell swelling, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activation, decreased intracellular ATP concentration, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release. VacA-induced death of these cells is a caspase-independent process that results in cellular release of histone-binding protein high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a proinflammatory protein. These features are consistent with the occurrence of cell death through a programmed necrosis pathway and suggest that VacA can be included among the growing number of bacterial pore-forming toxins that induce cell death through programmed necrosis. We propose that VacA augments H. pylori-induced mucosal inflammation in the human stomach by causing programmed necrosis of gastric epithelial cells and subsequent release of proinflammatory proteins and may thereby contribute to the pathogenesis of gastric cancer and peptic ulceration.
Helicobacter pylori is a specific gastric pathogen that colonizes the stomach in more than 50% of the world’s human population. Infection with this bacterium can induce several types of gastric pathology, ranging from chronic gastritis to peptic ulcers and even adenocarcinoma. Virulent H. pylori isolates encode components of a type IV secretion system (T4SS), which form a pilus for the injection of virulence proteins such as CagA into host target cells. This is accomplished by a specialized adhesin on the pilus surface, the protein CagL, a putative VirB5 ortholog, which binds to host cell β1 integrin, triggering subsequent delivery of CagA across the host cell membrane. Like the human extracellular matrix protein fibronectin, CagL contains an RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) motif and is able to trigger intracellular signaling pathways by RGD-dependent binding to integrins. While CagL binding to host cells is mediated primarily by the RGD motif, we identified an auxiliary binding motif for CagL–integrin interaction. Here, we report on a surface exposed FEANE (Phe-Glu-Ala-Asn-Glu) interaction motif in spatial proximity to the RGD sequence, which enhances the interactions of CagL with integrins. It will be referred to as RGD helper sequence (RHS). Competitive cell adhesion assays with recombinant wild type CagL and point mutants, competition experiments with synthetic cyclic and linear peptides, and peptide array experiments revealed amino acids essential for the interaction of the RHS motif with integrins. Infection experiments indicate that the RHS motif plays a role in the early interaction of H. pylori T4SS with integrin, to trigger signaling and to inject CagA into host cells. We thus postulate that CagL is a versatile T4SS surface protein equipped with at least two motifs to promote binding to integrins, thereby causing aberrant signaling within host cells and facilitating translocation of CagA into host cells, thus contributing directly to H. pylori pathogenesis.
CagL; binding motifs; cortactin; ERK kinase; integrin interaction; α5β1
Helicobacter pylori lives within the mucus layer of the human stomach, in close proximity to gastric epithelial cells. While a great deal is known about the effects of H. pylori on human cells and the specific bacterial products that mediate these effects, relatively little work has been done to investigate alterations in H. pylori that may be triggered by bacterial contact with human cells. In this review, we discuss the spectrum of changes in bacterial physiology and morphology that occur when H. pylori is in contact with gastric epithelial cells. Several studies have reported that cell contact causes alterations in H. pylori gene transcription. In addition, H. pylori contact with gastric epithelial cells promotes the formation of pilus-like structures at the bacteria–host cell interface. The formation of these structures requires multiple genes in the cag pathogenicity island, and these structures are proposed to have an important role in the type IV secretion system-dependent process through which CagA enters host cells. Finally, H. pylori contact with epithelial cells can promote bacterial replication and the formation of microcolonies, phenomena that are facilitated by the acquisition of iron and other nutrients from infected cells. In summary, the gastric epithelial cell surface represents an important niche for H. pylori, and upon entry into this niche, the bacteria alter their behavior in a manner that optimizes bacterial proliferation and persistent colonization of the host.
Helicobacter pylori; VacA; CagA; type IV secretion; cag pathogenicity island; iron; gastric cancer
Background and Aims
Helicobacter pylori colonises the stomach in half of all humans, and is the principal cause of gastric cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. While gastric cancer rates correlate with H. pylori prevalence in some areas, there are regions where infection is nearly universal, but rates of gastric cancer are low. In the case of Colombia, there is a 25-fold increase in gastric cancer rate in the Andean mountain (high risk) region compared to the coastal (low risk) region, despite similarly high (~90%) H. pylori prevalence in the two locations. Our aim was to investigate the ancestral origin of H. pylori strains isolated from subjects in these high and low risk regions and to determine whether this is a predictive determinant of precancerous lesions.
Multi-locus sequence typing was used to investigate phylogeographic origins of infecting H. pylori strains isolated from subjects in the Pacific coast and Andean mountains in the state of Nariño, Colombia. We analysed 64 subjects infected with cagA+ vacA s1m1 strains. Gastric biopsy slides from each individual were scored for histologic lesions and evaluated for DNA damage by immunohistochemistry.
We show that strains from the high risk region were all of European phylogeographic origin, whereas those from the low risk region were of either European (34%) or African origin (66%). European strain origin was strongly predictive of increased premalignant histologic lesions and epithelial DNA damage, even in the low risk region; African strain origin was associated with reduced severity of these parameters.
The phylogeographic origin of H. pylori strains provides an explanation for geographic differences in cancer risk deriving from this infection.
Gastric Cancer; Helicobacter pylori; multi-locus sequence typing; DNA damage; gastritis; intestinal metaplasia; gastric atrophy
Helicobacter pylori VacA is a pore-forming toxin that causes multiple alterations in human cells and contributes to the pathogenesis of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. The toxin is secreted by H. pylori as an 88 kDa monomer (p88) consisting of two domains (p33 and p55). While an X-ray crystal structure for p55 exists and p88 oligomers have been visualized by cryo-electron microscopy, a detailed analysis of p33 has been hindered by an inability to purify this domain in an active form. In this study, we expressed and purified a recombinant form of p33 under denaturing conditions and optimized conditions for the refolding of soluble protein. We show that refolded p33 can be added to purified p55 in trans to cause vacuolation of HeLa cells and inhibition of IL-2 production by Jurkat cells, effects identical to those produced by the p88 toxin from H. pylori. The p33 protein markedly enhances the cell-binding properties of p55. Size exclusion chromatography experiments suggest that p33 and p55 assemble into a complex consistent with the size of a p88 monomer. Electron microscopy of these p33/p55 complexes reveals small rod-shaped structures that can convert to oligomeric flower-shaped structures in the presence of detergent. We propose that the oligomerization observed in these experiments mimics the process by which VacA oligomerizes when in contact with membranes of host cells.
Helicobacter pylori is a genetically diverse organism that is adapted for colonization of the human stomach. All strains contain a gene encoding a secreted, pore-forming toxin known as VacA. Genetic variation at this locus could be under strong selection as H. pylori adapts to the host immune response, colonizes new human hosts, or inhabits different host environments. Here, we analyze the molecular evolution of VacA. Phylogenetic reconstructions indicate the subdivision of VacA sequences into three main groups with distinct geographic distributions. Divergence of the three groups is principally due to positively selected sequence changes in the p55 domain, a central region required for binding of the toxin to host cells. Divergent amino acids map to surface-exposed sites in the p55 crystal structure. Comparative phylogenetic analyses of vacA sequences and housekeeping gene sequences indicate that vacA does not share the same evolutionary history as the core genome. Further, rooting the VacA tree with outgroup sequences from the close relative Helicobacter acinonychis reveals that the ancestry of VacA is different from the African origin that typifies the core genome. Finally, sequence analyses of the virulence determinant CagA reveal three main groups strikingly similar to the three groups of VacA sequences. Taken together, these results indicate that positive selection has shaped the phylogenetic structure of VacA and CagA, and each of these virulence determinants has evolved separately from the core genome.