Intracellular Helicobacter pylori in gastric epithelial progenitors

Jung D. Oh, Sherif M. Karam, Jeffrey I. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Helicobacter pylori is generally viewed as an extracellular pathogen. We have analyzed the tropism of H. pylori clinical isolates in a gnotobiotic transgenic mouse model of human chronic atrophic gastritis, a preneoplastic condition. These mice lack acid-producing parietal cells and have an amplified population of dividing gastric epithelial progenitors (GEPs) that express NeuAcα2,3Galβ1,4-glycans recognized by H. pylori adhesins. Scanning confocal and transmission electron microscopic studies of stomachs that had been colonized for 1 month or 1 year revealed intracellular bacterial collections (IBCs) in a small subset of multi- and oligopotential epithelial progenitors. Transmission electron microscopic and multilabel immunohistochemical analyses disclosed bacteria with several morphotypes, including spiral-shaped, in the cytoplasm and endosomes. Several stages in IBC evolution were documented, from a few solitary bacteria to consolidated populations in dividing and nondividing GEPs, to microorganisms traversing breaches in the GEP plasma cell membrane. IBC formation was not a unique feature of H. pylori strains isolated from patients with chronic atrophic gastritis. The notion that adult mammalian epithelial progenitors can function as a repository for H. pylori broadens the view of host habitats available to this and perhaps other pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5186-5191
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Apr 5 2005


  • Adult mammalian epithelial progenitors
  • Bacterial pathogenesis
  • Chronic atrophic gastritis
  • Gnotobiotic mice
  • Intracellular bacterial communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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