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Forsyth, Mark H
College of William and Mary
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Project Summary: Regulatory Mechanisms of Outer Membrane Protein Expressionin Helicobacter pylori Unlike most bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract where hosts eithersuccumb to the infection or recover and eliminate the pathogen (e.g. Salmonella, Vibrio,Shigella), Helicobacter pylori infection of the human stomach is often a lifelong infection.The mechanisms that allow this gram-negative bacterium to persist in the humanstomach for decades, even in the face of immune and inflammatory responses, haveeluded the scientific community. Together with my undergraduates and masters students here at William & Mary,we investigate the determinants of regulation of outer membrane protein geneexpression in response to acid and in response to contact with the host's gastric cells.Adaptation to an acid environment and to the encounter with host cells is an importantstep in bacterial pathogenesis. From a basic science perspective, we believe that anunusual, phosphorylation independent signal transduction mechanism we'vecharacterized, is involved in the acid regulated gene expression in this pathogen. Wecontend that acid-induced repression of an adhesin gene, via a sensory histidine kinase,occurs independently of phosphorylation of the response regulator. We feel this is asolid experimental system to investigate the basis of signal transduction in H. pylori. We also intend to further characterize the impact of alternative forms of generegulation and gene copy number variation, on oipA expression, an important outermembrane protein adhesin implicated in the host inflammatory response. We haveturned oipA phase on, and thus expressed, in a strain that lacks the sine qua non ofvirulence; the cag Pathogenicity Island and an active (s1/m1) allele of vacuolatingcytotoxin. This crucial tool will now allow us to dissect the effects of OipA on humangastric cells in vitro without the complications of these crucial virulence determinants.We have documented natural cases of gene duplication involving oipA, and our studiesare designed to experimentally explore the potential effects in the production of a pro-inflammatory phenotype in some H. pylori isolates. We speculate that the decades longpersistence of H. pylori infection may be, at least in part, mediated by highly complexregulation of these 30 or so outer membrane proteins. By altering the constellation ofouter membrane proteins expressed and the amplitude with which each is expressed, H.pylori may circumvent the host's ability to rid the stomach of this potentially cancercausing infection.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Project source
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Project number
Bacterial Pathogens