Background & aims: Despite the proven ability of immunization to prevent Helicobacter infection in mouse models, the precise mechanism of protection has remained elusive.
Methods: We explored the cellular events associated with Helicobacter clearance from the stomach following vaccination by flow cytometry analysis and histological and molecular studies.
Results: Kinetic studies showed that the infection is undetectable in vaccinated mice at day 5 postbacterial challenge. Flow cytometry analysis showed that the percentages of mast cells (CD3 - CD117 + ) increased in the lymphoid cells isolated from the stomach at day 4 postchallenge in urease + cholera toxin (CT)-vaccinated mice in comparison with mice administered with CT alone (9.4% +/- 4.4% and 3.1% +/- 1%, respectively, for vaccinated and CT administered, n = 5; P < .01). Quantitative PCR analysis showed an increased messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of the mast cell proteases 1 and 2 at day 5 postchallenge in the stomach of vaccinated mice. In contrast to wild-type mice, mast cell-deficient mice (W/W v mice) were not protected from H felis colonization after vaccination. Indeed only 1 out of 12 vaccinated W/W v mice showed a negative urease test. Remarkably, vaccinated W/W v mice reconstituted with cultured bone marrow-derived mast cells recovered the ability to clear the infection after vaccination (8 out of 10 mast cell-reconstituted mice showed negative urease tests [ P < .006 as compared with wild-type mice]).
Conclusions: These experiments show that mast cells are, unexpectedly, critical mediators of anti- Helicobacter vaccination.