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Cell Microbiol. 2004 Feb;6(2):167-74.

Helicobacter pylori toxin VacA is transferred to host cells via a novel contact-dependent mechanism.

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IRIS, Chiron srl, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.


Helicobacter pylori is the causative agent of peptic ulcer disease. A major virulence factor of H. pylori is VacA, a toxin that causes massive vacuolization of epithelial cell lines in vitro and gastric epithelial erosion in vivo. Although VacA is exported over the outer membrane and is released from the bacteria, a portion of the toxin remains associated with the bacterial surface. We have found surface-associated toxin to be biologically active and spatially organized into distinct toxin-rich domains on the bacterial surface. Upon bacterial contact with host cells, toxin clusters are transferred directly from the bacterial surface to the host cell surface at the bacteria-cell interface, followed by uptake and intoxication. This contact-dependent transfer of VacA represents a cost-efficient route for delivery of VacA and potentially other bacterial effector molecules to target cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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