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Gut Pathog. 2011 Mar 23;3(1):3. doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-3-3.

Helicobacter pylori phagosome maturation in primary human macrophages.

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Mechanisms in Cell Biology and Disease Research Group, Sansom Institute for Health Research, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, South Australia, Australia.



Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a micro-aerophilic, spiral-shaped, motile bacterium that is the principal cause of gastric and duodenal ulcers in humans and is a major risk factor for the development of gastric cancer. Despite provoking a strong innate and adaptive immune response in the host, H. pylori persists in the gastric mucosa, avoiding eradication by macrophages and other phagocytic cells, which are recruited to the site of infection. Here we have characterised the critical degradative process of phagosome maturation in primary human macrophages for five genotypically and phenotypically distinct clinical strains of H. pylori.


All of the H. pylori strains examined showed some disruption to the phagosome maturation process, when compared to control E. coli. The early endosome marker EEA1 and late endosome marker Rab7 were retained on H. pylori phagosomes, while the late endosome-lysosome markers CD63, LAMP-1 and LAMP-2 were acquired in an apparently normal manner. Acquisition of EEA1 by H. pylori phagosomes appeared to occur by two distinct, strain specific modes. H. pylori strains that were negative for the cancer associated virulence factor CagA were detected in phagosomes that recruited large amounts of EEA1 relative to Rab5, compared to CagA positive strains. There were also strain specific differences in the timing of Rab7 acquisition which correlated with differences in the rate of intracellular trafficking of phagosomes and the timing of megasome formation. Megasomes were observed for all of the H. pylori strains examined.


H. pylori appeared to disrupt the normal process of phagosome maturation in primary human macrophages, appearing to block endosome fission. This resulted in the formation of a hybrid phagosome-endosome-lysosome compartment, which we propose has reduced degradative capacity. Reduced killing by phagocytes is consistent with the persistence of H. pylori in the host, and would contribute to the chronic stimulation of the inflammatory immune response, which underlies H. pylori-associated disease.

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