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Infect Immun. 2003 Oct;71(10):5613-22.

Presence of active aliphatic amidases in Helicobacter species able to colonize the stomach.

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  • 1Unité de Pathogénie Bactérienne des Muqueuses, Département de Pathogenèse Microbienne. Département Structure et Dynamique des Génomes, Institut Pasteur, 28 Rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Ammonia production is of great importance for the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori as a nitrogen source, as a compound protecting against gastric acidity, and as a cytotoxic molecule. In addition to urease, H. pylori possesses two aliphatic amidases responsible for ammonia production: AmiE, a classical amidase, and AmiF, a new type of formamidase. Both enzymes are part of a regulatory network consisting of nitrogen metabolism enzymes, including urease and arginase. We examined the role of the H. pylori amidases in vivo by testing the gastric colonization of mice with H. pylori SS1 strains carrying mutations in amiE and/or amiF and in coinfection experiments with wild-type and double mutant strains. A new cassette conferring resistance to gentamicin was used in addition to the kanamycin cassette to construct the double mutation in strain SS1. Our data indicate that the amidases are not essential for colonization of mice. The search for amiE and amiF genes in 53 H. pylori strains from different geographic origins indicated the presence of both genes in all these genomes. We tested for the presence of the amiE and amiF genes and for amidase and formamidase activities in eleven Helicobacter species. Among the gastric species, H. acinonychis possessed both amiE and amiF, H. felis carried only amiF, and H. mustelae was devoid of amidases. H. muridarum, which can colonize both mouse intestine and stomach, was the only enterohepatic species to contain amiE. Phylogenetic trees based upon the sequences of H. pylori amiE and amiF genes and their respective homologs from other organisms as well as the amidase gene distribution among Helicobacter species are strongly suggestive of amidase acquisition by horizontal gene transfer. Since amidases are found only in Helicobacter species able to colonize the stomach, their acquisition might be related to selective pressure in this particular gastric environment.

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