The vacuolating cytotoxin of Helicobacter pylori

Mol Microbiol. 1996 Apr;20(2):241-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1996.tb02612.x.


Helicobacter pylori, the causative agent of chronic superficial gastritis and duodenal ulcer disease in humans, produces a unique cytotoxin (VacA) that induces cytoplasmic vacuolation in eukaryotic cells. The structural organization and processing of the vacuolating cytotoxin are characteristic of a family of proteins exemplified by Neisseria gonorrhoeae IgA protease. Although only 50% of H. pylori isolates produce detectable cytotoxin activity in vitro, vacA homologues are present in virtually all isolates. Several families of vacA alleles have been identified, and there is a strong correlation between presence of specific vacA genotypes, cytotoxin activity, and peptic ulceration. Experiments in a mouse model of H. pylori-induced gastric damage indicate that the cytotoxin plays an important role in inducing gastric epithelial necrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytotoxins / genetics
  • Cytotoxins / metabolism*
  • Helicobacter pylori / genetics
  • Helicobacter pylori / metabolism*
  • Humans


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytotoxins
  • VacA protein, Helicobacter pylori