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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 19;110(8):3047-52. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211248110. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Helicobacter pylori γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and vacuolating cytotoxin promote gastric persistence and immune tolerance.

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Institute of Molecular Cancer Research, University of Zurich, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Infection with the gastric bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori is typically contracted in early childhood and often persists for decades. The immunomodulatory properties of H. pylori that allow it to colonize humans persistently are believed to also account for H. pylori's protective effects against allergic and chronic inflammatory diseases. H. pylori infection efficiently reprograms dendritic cells (DCs) toward a tolerogenic phenotype and induces regulatory T cells (Tregs) with highly suppressive activity in models of allergen-induced asthma. We show here that two H. pylori virulence determinants, the γ-glutamyl transpeptidase GGT and the vacuolating cytotoxin VacA, contribute critically and nonredundantly to H. pylori's tolerizing effects on murine DCs in vitro and in vivo. The tolerance-promoting effects of both factors are independent of their described suppressive activity on T cells. Isogenic H. pylori mutants lacking either GGT or VacA are incapable of preventing LPS-induced DC maturation and fail to drive DC tolerization as assessed by induction of Treg properties in cocultured naive T cells. The Δggt and ΔvacA mutants colonize mice at significantly reduced levels, induce stronger T-helper 1 (Th1) and T-helper 17 (Th17) responses, and/or trigger more severe gastric pathology. Both factors promote the efficient induction of Tregs in vivo, and VacA is required to prevent allergen-induced asthma. The defects of the Δggt mutant in vitro and in vivo are phenocopied by pharmacological inhibition of the transpeptidase activity of GGT in all readouts. In conclusion, our results reveal the molecular players and mechanistic basis for H. pylori-induced immunomodulation, promoting persistent infection and conferring protection against allergic asthma.

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