Helicobacter pylori are responsible for the induction of chronic gastric inflammation progressing to atrophy, metaplasia, and gastric cancer. The overexpression of Cathepsin X/Z (Ctsz) in H. pylori-infected mucosa and gastric cancer is mediated predominantly by an augmented migration of ctsz(-/-)positive macrophages and the up-regulation of Ctsz in tumor epithelium. To explore the Ctsz-function in the context of chronic inflammation and the development of preneoplastic lesions, we used Ctsz-deficient mice in a H. pylori gastritis model. Ctsz (-/-) and wild-type (wt) mice were infected with H. pylori strain SS1. The mice were sacrificed at 24, 36, and 50 weeks post infection (wpi). The stomach was removed, and gastric strips were snap-frozen or embedded and stained with H&E. Tissue sections were scored for epithelial lesions and inflammation. Ki-67 and F4/80 immunostaining were used to measure epithelial cell proliferation and macrophage infiltration, respectively. The upregulation of compensating cathepsins and cytokines were confirmed by Western blotting and quantitative RT-PCR. SS1-infected wt and ctsz (-/-) mice showed strong inflammation, foveolar hyperplasia, atrophy, and cystically-dilated glands. However, at 50 wpi, ctsz (-/-) mice developed significantly more severe spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplasia (SPEM), showed enhanced epithelial proliferation, and higher levels of infiltrating macrophages. Induction of cytokines was higher and significantly prolonged in ctsz (-/-) mice compared to wt. Ctsz deficiency supports H. pylori-dependent development of chronic gastritis up to metaplasia, indicating a protective, but not proteolytic, function of Ctsz in inflammatory gastric disease.