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J Med Microbiol. 2002 Jun;51(6):495-502.

Helicobacter pylori adherence to gastric epithelial cells: a role for non-adhesin virulence genes.

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Division of Surgery, Bristol Royal Infirmary, University of Bristol, UK.


Helicobacter pylori is a major aetiological agent in gastroduodenal disorders and adherence of the bacteria to the gastric mucosa is one of the initial stages of infection. Although a number of specific adhesins has been identified, other H. pylori virulence factors may play a role in adherence to gastric epithelial cells directly or through interaction with other adhesins. This study assessed the effect of 16 H. pylori virulence factors on the adherence of the bacteria to gastric AGS cells and on gastric epithelial cell cycle distribution. Defined isogenic H. pylori SS1 mutants were used. After co-incubation of gastric AGS cells and bacteria, adherence of H. pylori to AGS cells was visualised by immunofluorescence microscopy and quantified by flow cytometry. Cell cycle phase distribution was analysed by flow cytometry with propidium iodide staining. Mutants were tested for their ability to adhere to AGS cells and compared with the wild-type SS1 strain. Mutations in genes in the cag pathogenicity island showed that cagP and cagE mutants adhered less than the wild-type strain to AGS cells, whereas a cagF mutant showed no reduction in adherence. Mutations in genes involved in flagellar biosynthesis showed that the adherence ability of fliQ, fliM and fliS mutants was reduced, but a flhB mutant possessed wild-type levels of adherence. Mutations in genes coding for the urease (ureB) and phospholipase (pldA) enzymes did not affect adherence, but mutation of the tlyA gene encoding an H. pylori haemolysin resulted in a reduced adherence. A fliQ mutant, with reduced adherence to AGS cells, was less able to induce AGS cell apoptosis than SS1. The ability to induce G0G1 cell cycle arrest was also abolished in the fliQ mutant. However, an increased cell number in S phase was observed when AGS cells were exposed to the fliQ mutant compared with SS1, suggesting that unattached bacteria may still be able to stimulate cell proliferation. In addition to known adhesins, other bacterial virulence factors such as CagE, CagP, FliQ, FliM, FliS and TlyA appear to play a role in H. pylori adherence to gastric epithelial cells. Mutations in these genes may affect H. pylori pathogenicity by reducing either the ability of the bacteria to attach to gastric epithelial cells or the intensity of bacteria-host cell interactions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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