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Infect Immun. 1992 Jul;60(7):2657-66.

Purification of recombinant Helicobacter pylori urease apoenzyme encoded by ureA and ureB.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.


Helicobacter pylori, a gram-negative, microaerophilic, spiral-shaped bacterium, is an etiologic agent of human gastritis and peptic ulceration and is highly restricted to the gastric mucosa of humans. Urease, synthesized at up to 6% of the soluble cell protein, hydrolyzes urea, thereby releasing ammonia, which may neutralize acid, allowing survival of the bacterium and initial colonization of the gastric mucosa. The urease protein is encoded by two subunit genes, ureA and ureB; however, accessory genes are necessary for enzyme activity. H. pylori urease genes were isolated from a cosmid gene bank and subcloned on a 5.8-kb Sau3A partial fragment carrying ureCDAB, corresponding to four open reading frames described by A. Labigne, V. Cussac, and P. Courcoux (J. Bacteriol. 173:1920-1931, 1991). Clones were confirmed as ureas gene sequences by polymerase chain reaction amplification. The recombinant enzyme was purified from the soluble protein of French press lysates of Escherichia coli DH5 alpha(pHP402) by chromatography on DEAE-Sepharose, Phenyl-Sepharose, Mono-Q, and Superose 6 resins. Fractions containing a catalytically inactive apoenzyme were identified by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) by using antisera to native UreA (29.5 kDa) and UreB (66 kDa). Purified recombinant urease was indistinguishable from native enzyme on a Superose 6 column and on Coomassie blue-stained sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels. The protein reacted specifically on Western blots (immunoblots) with anti-UreA and anti-UreB antibodies and was recognized with an intensity equal to that of the native enzyme in an ELISA using human sera. Clones containing only ureA and ureB also produced an assembled but inactive enzyme. Enzyme activity was not restored by in trans complementation with cloned urease accessory gene sequences from Proteus mirabilis or Morganella morganii. H. pylori urease genes (ureCDAB) subcloned into pACYC184 were also not complemented with any of 1,000 cosmid clones containing H. pylori chromosomal sequences. However, larger clones containing 4.5 kb of DNA downstream of ureB synthesized catalytically active urease when grown in minimal medium. These data indicate that the ureA and ureB genes encoding H. pylori urease are transcribed and translated in E. coli and that these genes alone are sufficient for the synthesis and assembly of the native size enzyme. Genes downstream of ureB, however, are necessary for production of a catalytically active urease.

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