Association of Helicobacter pylori vacuolating toxin (VacA) with lipid rafts

J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 13;277(37):34642-50. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M203466200. Epub 2002 Jul 16.


A variety of extracellular ligands and pathogens interact with raft domains in the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells. In this study, we examined the role of lipid rafts and raft-associated glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins in the process by which Helicobacter pylori vacuolating toxin (VacA) intoxicates cells. We first investigated whether GPI-anchored proteins are required for VacA toxicity by analyzing wild-type Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and CHO-LA1 mutant cells that are defective in production of GPI-anchored proteins. Whereas wild-type and mutant cells differed markedly in susceptibility to aerolysin (a bacterial toxin that binds to GPI-anchored proteins), they were equally susceptible to VacA. We next determined whether VacA physically associates with lipid rafts. CHO or HeLa cells were incubated with VacA, and Triton-insoluble membranes then were separated by sucrose density gradient centrifugation. Immunoblot analysis revealed that a substantial proportion of cell-associated toxin was associated with detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs). DRM association required acid activation of the purified toxin prior to contact with cells, and acid activation also was required for VacA cytotoxicity. Treatment of cells with methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (a cholesterol-depleting agent) did not inhibit VacA-induced depolarization of the plasma membrane, but interfered with the internalization or intracellular localization of VacA and inhibited the capacity of the toxin to induce cell vacuolation. Treatment of cells with nystatin also inhibited VacA-induced cell vacuolation. These data indicate that VacA associates with lipid raft microdomains in the absence of GPI-anchored proteins and suggest that association of the toxin with lipid rafts is important for VacA cytotoxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / toxicity
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Cyclodextrins / pharmacology
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols / physiology
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Nystatin / pharmacology
  • Vacuoles / drug effects
  • beta-Cyclodextrins*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cyclodextrins
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols
  • VacA protein, Helicobacter pylori
  • beta-Cyclodextrins
  • methyl-beta-cyclodextrin
  • Nystatin