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Autophagy. 2009 Apr;5(3):370-9. Epub 2009 Apr 19.

Effect of Helicobacter pylori's vacuolating cytotoxin on the autophagy pathway in gastric epithelial cells.

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Cell Biology Program, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Host cell responses to Helicobacter pylori infection are complex and incompletely understood. Here, we report that autophagy is induced within human-derived gastric epithelial cells (AGS) in response to H. pylori infection. These autophagosomes were distinct and different from the large vacuoles induced during H. pylori infection. Autophagosomes were detected by transmission electron microscopy, conversion of LC3-I to LC3-II, GFP-LC3 recruitment to autophagosomes, and depended on Atg5 and Atg12. The induction of autophagy depended on the vacuolating cytotoxin (VacA) and, moreover, VacA was sufficient to induce autophagosome formation. The channel-forming activity of VacA was necessary for inducing autophagy. Intracellular VacA partially co-localized with GFP-LC3, indicating that the toxin associates with autophagosomes. The inhibition of autophagy increased the stability of intracellular VacA, which in turn resulted in enhanced toxin-mediated cellular vacuolation. These findings suggest that the induction of autophagy by VacA may represent a host mechanism to limit toxin-induced cellular damage.

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