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Can J Microbiol. 2008 Jul;54(7):537-48. doi: 10.1139/w08-042.

Helicobacter pylori produces unique filaments upon host contact in vitro.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G2R3, Canada.


Helicobacter pylori exists in 2 distinct morphological states, helicoid and coccoid. Both have been observed in in vitro culture and in gastric biopsies. We visualized H. pylori during AGS cell infections using immunofluorescence microscopy. Anti-H. pylori mouse serum as well as human serum from H. pylori-positive patients recognized long, thin bacterial filaments, which formed on helicoids and more frequently on coccoids. These filaments reached lengths of 59 microm and often connected bacteria. Periodate oxidation abolished antibody recognition, suggesting that carbohydrates compose a major antigenic component of the filaments. Similar to results obtained using immunofluorescence microscopy, scanning electron microscopy imaging revealed thin filamentous structures, which were absent on uninfected cells. Both coccoid conversion and filament development increased over the time course of infection with peak filament formation at 4 h. The number of visible filaments then decreased as bacteria clustered on the apical surface of AGS cells. Since the observed filaments were clearly distinct from previously described surface structures, including flagella and the cag type IV secretion system, our results demonstrate that these filaments represent a unique, previously unrecognized, organelle.

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