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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Determinants of non-toxicity in the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori.

The Helicobacter pylori vacuolating cytotoxin gene, vacA, is naturally polymorphic, the two most diverse regions being the signal region (which can be type s1 or s2) and the mid region (m1 or m2). Previous work has shown which features of vacA make peptic ulcer and gastric cancer-associated type s1/m1 and s1/m2 strains toxic. vacA s2/m2 strains are associated with lower peptic ulcer and gastric cancer risk and are non-toxic. We now define the features of vacA that determine the non-toxicity of these strains. To do this, we deleted parts of vacA and constructed isogenic hybrid strains in which regions of vacA were exchanged between toxigenic and non-toxigenic strains. We showed that a naturally occurring 12-amino acid hydrophilic N-terminal extension found on s2 VacA blocks vacuolating activity as its removal (to make the strain s1-like) confers activity. The mid region of s2/m2 vacA does not cause the non-vacuolating phenotype, but if VacA is unblocked, it confers cell line specificity of vacuolation as in natural s1/m2 strains. Chromosomal replacement of vacA in a non-toxigenic strain with vacA from a toxigenic strain confers full vacuolating activity proving that this activity is entirely controlled by elements within vacA. This work defines why H. pylori strains with different vacA allelic structures have differing toxicity and provides a rational basis for vacA typing schemes.[1]


  1. Determinants of non-toxicity in the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori. Letley, D.P., Rhead, J.L., Twells, R.J., Dove, B., Atherton, J.C. J. Biol. Chem. (2003) [Pubmed]
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