Helicobacter Pylori Versus the Host: Remodeling of the Bacterial Outer Membrane Is Required for Survival in the Gastric Mucosa

PLoS Pathog. 2011 Dec;7(12):e1002454. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002454. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Modification of bacterial surface structures, such as the lipid A portion of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), is used by many pathogenic bacteria to help evade the host innate immune response. Helicobacter pylori, a gram-negative bacterium capable of chronic colonization of the human stomach, modifies its lipid A by removal of phosphate groups from the 1- and 4'-positions of the lipid A backbone. In this study, we identify the enzyme responsible for dephosphorylation of the lipid A 4'-phosphate group in H. pylori, Jhp1487 (LpxF). To ascertain the role these modifications play in the pathogenesis of H. pylori, we created mutants in lpxE (1-phosphatase), lpxF (4'-phosphatase) and a double lpxE/F mutant. Analysis of lipid A isolated from lpxE and lpxF mutants revealed lipid A species with a 1 or 4'-phosphate group, respectively while the double lpxE/F mutant revealed a bis-phosphorylated lipid A. Mutants lacking lpxE, lpxF, or lpxE/F show a 16, 360 and 1020 fold increase in sensitivity to the cationic antimicrobial peptide polymyxin B, respectively. Moreover, a similar loss of resistance is seen against a variety of CAMPs found in the human body including LL37, β-defensin 2, and P-113. Using a fluorescent derivative of polymyxin we demonstrate that, unlike wild type bacteria, polymyxin readily associates with the lpxE/F mutant. Presumably, the increase in the negative charge of H. pylori LPS allows for binding of the peptide to the bacterial surface. Interestingly, the action of LpxE and LpxF was shown to decrease recognition of Helicobacter LPS by the innate immune receptor, Toll-like Receptor 4. Furthermore, lpxE/F mutants were unable to colonize the gastric mucosa of C57BL/6J and C57BL/6J tlr4 -/- mice when compared to wild type H. pylori. Our results demonstrate that dephosphorylation of the lipid A domain of H. pylori LPS by LpxE and LpxF is key to its ability to colonize a mammalian host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / immunology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / genetics
  • Cell Membrane / immunology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Gastric Mucosa / immunology
  • Gastric Mucosa / microbiology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Helicobacter pylori / physiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Lipid A / genetics
  • Lipid A / immunology
  • Lipid A / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / immunology
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipid A
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases