The bacterium Helicobacter pylori induces gastric inflammation and predisposes to cancer. H. pylori-infected epithelial cells secrete cytokines and chemokines and undergo DNA-damage. We show that the host cell's mitochondrial apoptosis system contributes to cytokine secretion and DNA-damage in the absence of cell death. H. pylori induced secretion of cytokines/chemokines from epithelial cells, dependent on the mitochondrial apoptosis machinery. A signalling step was identified in the release of mitochondrial Smac/DIABLO, which was required for alternative NF-κB-activation and contributed to chemokine secretion. The bacterial cag-pathogenicity island and bacterial muropeptide triggered mitochondrial host cell signals through the pattern recognition receptor NOD1. H. pylori-induced DNA-damage depended on mitochondrial apoptosis signals and the caspase-activated DNAse. In biopsies from H. pylori-positive patients, we observed a correlation of Smac-levels and inflammation. Non-apoptotic cells in these samples showed evidence of caspase-3-activation, correlating with phosphorylation of the DNA-damage response kinase ATM. Thus, H. pylori activates the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway to a sub-lethal level. During infection, Smac has a cytosolic, pro-inflammatory role in the absence of apoptosis. Further, DNA-damage through sub-lethal mitochondrial signals is likely to contribute to mutagenesis and cancer development.
© 2022. The Author(s).