Characterization of the morphologic conversion of Helicobacter pylori from bacillary to coccoid forms

Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1991;181:58-64.


Growth studies of Helicobacter pylori were performed involving analysis of the bacterium and its microenvironment, to lend insight into the factors responsible for the morphologic conversion phenomenon. H. pylori converted from bacillary to coccoid forms in broth culture after incubation for 5 days under microaerobic conditions with agitation. This morphologic conversion was paralleled by a dramatic decrease in colony-forming units per milliliter (CFU/ml) and a significant endogenous increase in the pH of the broth culture. In addition, removal of broth cultures from microaerobic conditions after 3 days of incubation resulted in a rapid increase in culture pH, a morphologic conversion, and a concomitant decrease of CFU/ml. These observations suggest an inhibitory effect of basic pH, endogenously produced, on the growth of H. pylori in vitro. Experiments designed to identify the reason for the endogenous increase in culture pH demonstrated that the urease enzyme of H. pylori is not primarily responsible for this phenomenon. Rather, H. pylori appears to produce a deaminase enzyme that is likely responsible for the generation of ammonia, which results in the increase in culture pH, the morphologic conversion, and the loss of culturability observed in vitro. Also indicated is the need for a buffering component (for example, bicarbonate) to maintain pH conditions favorable to the growth of H. pylori.

MeSH terms

  • Atypical Bacterial Forms / cytology*
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Culture Media
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / microbiology*
  • Helicobacter pylori / cytology*
  • Helicobacter pylori / enzymology
  • Helicobacter pylori / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Urease / metabolism


  • Culture Media
  • Urease