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J Bacteriol. 2005 Jan;187(2):729-38.

The periplasmic alpha-carbonic anhydrase activity of Helicobacter pylori is essential for acid acclimation.

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The Membrane Biology Laboratory, Department of Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


The role of the periplasmic alpha-carbonic anhydrase (alpha-CA) (HP1186) in acid acclimation of Helicobacter pylori was investigated. Urease and urea influx through UreI have been shown to be essential for gastric colonization and for acid survival in vitro. Intrabacterial urease generation of NH3 has a major role in regulation of periplasmic pH and inner membrane potential under acidic conditions, allowing adequate bioenergetics for survival and growth. Since alpha-CA catalyzes the conversion of CO2 to HCO3-, the role of CO2 in periplasmic buffering was studied using an alpha-CA deletion mutant and the CA inhibitor acetazolamide. Western analysis confirmed that alpha-CA was bound to the inner membrane. Immunoblots and PCR confirmed the absence of the enzyme and the gene in the alpha-CA knockout. In the mutant or in the presence of acetazolamide, there was an approximately 3 log10 decrease in acid survival. In acid, absence of alpha-CA activity decreased membrane integrity, as observed using membrane-permeant and -impermeant fluorescent DNA dyes. The increase in membrane potential and cytoplasmic buffering following urea addition to wild-type organisms in acid was absent in the alpha-CA knockout mutant and in the presence of acetazolamide, although UreI and urease remained fully functional. At low pH, the elevation of cytoplasmic and periplasmic pH with urea was abolished in the absence of alpha-CA activity. Hence, buffering of the periplasm to a pH consistent with viability depends not only on NH3 efflux from the cytoplasm but also on the conversion of CO2, produced by urease, to HCO3- by the periplasmic alpha-CA.

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