Helicobacter pylori infection is associated with chronic gastritis, peptic ulceration, and gastric carcinoma. The potential role of CD95-mediated apoptosis was investigated in a panel of gastric biopsies obtained from patients with H. pylori-associated chronic gastritis (n = 29) and with noninfected normal mucosa (n = 10). Immunohistochemistry revealed increased CD95 receptor expression in epithelial and lamina propria cells in chronic gastritis. By in situ hybridization, CD95 ligand mRNA was absent or low in normal mucosa but expressed at high levels in lamina propria lymphocytes and, unexpectedly, in epithelial cells in chronic gastritis. Apoptotic cells were rare in normal mucosa but were observed regularly in chronic gastritis in close proximity to CD95 ligand mRNA expression throughout the epithelial and lamina propria cells. In a functional analysis gastric epithelial cell lines were incubated with supernatants of H. pylori. Treatment with the cytotoxic isolate H. pylori 60190 but not with the noncytotoxic isolate Tx30a upregulated CD95 in up to 50% of gastric epithelial cells and induced apoptosis in these cells. H. pylori-induced apoptosis was partially prevented by blocking CD95, demonstrating the functional role of the CD95 system. These findings suggest that H. pylori-associated chronic gastritis involves apoptosis of gastric epithelial cells by activation of the CD95 receptor and ligand system.