A supplemented soft agar chemotaxis assay demonstrates the Helicobacter pylori chemotactic response to zinc and nickel

Microbiology. 2013 Jan;159(Pt 1):46-57. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.062877-0. Epub 2012 Nov 8.


Directed motility, or chemotaxis, is required for Helicobacter pylori to establish infection in the stomach, although the full repertoire of this bacterium's chemotactic responses is not yet known. Here we report that H. pylori responds to zinc as an attractant and nickel as a repellent. To reach this conclusion, we employed both a temporal chemotaxis assay based on bacterial reversals and a supplemented soft agar spatial assay. We refined the temporal assay using a previously described chemorepellent, acid, and found that H. pylori requires rich media with serum to maintain optimal swimming motility. Surprisingly, we found that some strains respond to acid as an attractant, and that the TlpC chemoreceptor correlated with whether acid was sensed as an attractant or repellent. Using this same assay, we detected weak repellent responses to nickel and copper, and a varied response to zinc. We thus developed an alternative spatial chemotactic assay called the supplemented soft agar assay, which utilizes soft agar medium supplemented with the test compound. With Escherichia coli, the attractant serine slowed overall bacterial migration, while the repellent nickel increased the speed of overall migration. In H. pylori we detected slowed migration with doubled tryptone media, as well as zinc, consistent with an attractant response. In contrast, nickel increased migration, consistent with repulsion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Agar
  • Bacteriological Techniques / methods
  • Chemotaxis*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Helicobacter pylori / drug effects
  • Helicobacter pylori / metabolism
  • Helicobacter pylori / physiology*
  • Nickel / metabolism*
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Acids
  • Culture Media
  • Serine
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Agar
  • Zinc