Helicobacter pylori shows tropism to gastric differentiated pit cells dependent on urea chemotaxis

Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 5;13(1):5878. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33165-4.


The human gastric epithelium forms highly organized gland structures with different subtypes of cells. The carcinogenic bacterium Helicobacter pylori can attach to gastric cells and subsequently translocate its virulence factor CagA, but the possible host cell tropism of H. pylori is currently unknown. Here, we report that H. pylori preferentially attaches to differentiated cells in the pit region of gastric units. Single-cell RNA-seq shows that organoid-derived monolayers recapitulate the pit region, while organoids capture the gland region of the gastric units. Using these models, we show that H. pylori preferentially attaches to highly differentiated pit cells, marked by high levels of GKN1, GKN2 and PSCA. Directed differentiation of host cells enable enrichment of the target cell population and confirm H. pylori preferential attachment and CagA translocation into these cells. Attachment is independent of MUC5AC or PSCA expression, and instead relies on bacterial TlpB-dependent chemotaxis towards host cell-released urea, which scales with host cell size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Chemotaxis
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism
  • Helicobacter Infections* / microbiology
  • Helicobacter pylori* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Peptide Hormones* / metabolism
  • Tropism
  • Urea / metabolism
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • GKN1 protein, human
  • GKN2 protein, human
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Virulence Factors
  • Urea