Lewis antigens in Helicobacter pylori: biosynthesis and phase variation

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Jun;36(6):1187-96. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.01934.x.


The lipopolysaccharides (LPS) of most Helicobacter pylori strains contain complex carbohydrates known as Lewis antigens that are structurally related to the human blood group antigens. Investigations on the genetic determinants involved in the biosynthesis of Lewis antigens have led to the identification of the fucosyltransferases of H. pylori, which have substrate specificities distinct from the mammalian fucosyltransferases. Compared with its human host, H. pylori utilizes a different pathway to synthesize the difucosylated Lewis antigens, Lewis y. and Lewis b. Unique features in the H. pylori fucosyltransferase genes, including homopolymeric tracts mediating slipped-strand mispairing and the elements regulating translational frameshifting, enable H. pylori to produce variable LPS epitopes on its surface. These new findings have provided us with a basis to further examine the roles of molecular mimicry and phase variation of H. pylori Lewis antigen expression in both persistent infection and pathogenesis of this important human gastric pathogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation*
  • Fucosyltransferases / genetics*
  • Fucosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Helicobacter pylori / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens / biosynthesis*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / biosynthesis*
  • Oligosaccharides / biosynthesis*


  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens
  • Lewis Y antigen
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • galactopyranosyl-1-3-galactopyranosyl-1-3(4)-N-acetylglucosamine
  • Fucosyltransferases
  • galactoside 3-fucosyltransferase
  • 3-galactosyl-N-acetylglucosaminide 4-alpha-L-fucosyltransferase