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Helicobacter. 2001 Sep;6(3):187-98.

Helicobacter pylori CagA: analysis of sequence diversity in relation to phosphorylation motifs and implications for the role of CagA as a virulence factor.

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Department of Medicine, VA Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


CagA is transported into host target cells and subsequently phosphorylated. Clearly this is a mechanism by which Helicobacter pylori could take control of one or more host cell signal transduction pathways. Presumably the end result of this interaction favors survival of H. pylori, irrespective of eventual damage to the host cell. CagA is noted for its amino acid (AA) sequence diversity, both within and outside the variable region of the molecule. The primary purpose of this review is to examine how variation in the type and number of CagA phosphorylation sites might determine the outcome of infection by different strains of H. pylori. The answer to this question could help to explain the widely disparate results obtained when H. pylori CagA status has been compared to type and severity of disease outcome in different populations, that is in different countries. Analysis of all available CagA sequences revealed that CagA contains both tyrosine phosphorylation motifs (TPMs) and cyclic-AMP-dependent phosphorylation motifs (CPMs). There are two potential CPMs near the N-terminus of CagA and at least two in the repeat region; these are not all equally well conserved. We also defined a 48-residue AA sequence, which includes the N-terminal TPM at tyrosine (Y)-122, which distinguishes between Eastern (Hong Kong-Taiwan-Japan-Thailand) H. pylori isolates and those from the West (Europe-Africa-the Americas-Australia). All 28 of the Eastern type CagA proteins have a functional N-terminal TPM whereas 11 of 47 (23.4%) of the Western type contain an inactive motif, with threonine (T) replacing the critical aspartic acid (D) residue. Only 13 of 24 (54%) known CagA sequences have an active TPM in the repeat region and only one has two TPMs in this region. The potential TPM near the C-terminus of CagA is not likely to be important since only 3 of 24 (12.5%) sequences were found to be intact. Protein database searches revealed that the AA sequence immediately following the TPM at Y-122 in CagA is homologous with a pair of PDZ domains which are common in signal transducing proteins, particularly tyrosine phosphatases. This provides a theoretical link between CagA and many of the observed responses of host cells to H. pylori. In summary, not all CagA proteins are equal in their potential for initiating host cell responses via signal transduction pathways. The degree of functional diversity of this protein depends upon which phosphorylation motifs are critical to the biological activity of CagA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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