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Gastroenterology. 1998 Sep;115(3):628-41.

Influence of pH on metabolism and urease activity of Helicobacter pylori.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Byk Gulden Pharmaceuticals, Konstanz, Germany.



The metabolic and urease responses of Helicobacter pylori to variations in gastric acidity are unknown. The aim of this study was to determine effects of changes of environmental pH on metabolism, urease activity, and survival of H. pylori in an unbuffered environment.


Bacterial metabolism and urease activity were determined by measuring pH changes in perfused microphysiometer chambers over a pH range from 2.5 to 9.0 with or without urea and survival by restoration of metabolism at pH 7.4.


Glucose metabolism by acid-adapted H. pylori occurred at a perfusion pH between 3.5 and 8.6 and was highest between 7.4 and 8.2. Metabolism was irreversibly inhibited at pH <3.5 or >8.6. In the presence of 2.5 mmol/L urea, the chamber pH increased to about 6.2 during perfusion between pH 5.5 and 4.0. At pH 4.0 and below, urease activity increased several-fold without change of chamber pH. Urea in the perfusate enabled retention of metabolism after acid exposure but was toxic at pH 7.4.


The metabolic range of acid-adapted H. pylori is between an environmental pH of 3.5 and 8.6. Extracellular pH-regulated internal urease activity allows metabolism in the pH range between 4.0 and 2. 5 by maintaining periplasmic pH at 6.2. The organism is an acid-tolerant neutralophile due to internal urease activity.

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