Background & aims: Helicobacter pylori is found within the gastric mucous gel layer and in association with the epithelial surface. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of H. pylori infection on mucin gene expression (MUC6, MUC5, and MUC1) in the gastric epithelium.
Methods: Gastric biopsy specimens were examined by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization for mucin gene expression.
Results: MUC6 was limited to mucous glands of H. pylori-negative patients, but 72% of H. pylori-positive patients also expressed MUC6 in surface mucous cells. In contrast, MUC5 mucin was found in significantly fewer surface mucous cells of H. pylori-positive specimens. Carbohydrates recognized by Lewis (Le) X and paradoxical concanavalin A (con A) staining were aberrantly expressed in the surface mucous cells of 16 of 27 and 17 of 23 H. pylori-positive tissues, respectively. Surface Le(b) was present in 26 of 27 H. pylori-positive and 19 of 30 H. pylori-negative tissues. Eradication of H. pylori resulted in reversal of surface MUC5 and MUC6 expression toward normal patterns. Purified gastric mucins of H. pylori-positive patients bound more anti-MUC6 and anti-Le(b) than mucins from H. pylori-negative patients.
Conclusions: The type of mucin that is normally limited to mucous glands is aberrantly expressed in surface mucous cells of H. pylori-positive patients, whereas less of the surface epithelium expresses normal surface-type gastric mucin.