The evolutionary secret of H. pylori to survive in the stomach

December 21, 2016, Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Credit: Institut Pasteur

Professor Frédéric Veyrier's most recent research, in collaboration with the team of Professor Hilde De Reuse at the Institut Pasteur, has shed light on key genes essential to the pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which causes gastric infections. Like other microorganisms, this pathogen underwent genetic modifications through the course of evolution that enabled it to adapt to its environment.

Nickel is, in fact, the evolutionary key that allows the pathogen to survive the very acid conditions of the stomach. This metal is a cofactor of two essential proteins, one of which is urease, an enzyme that neutralizes . Therefore, to colonize the stomach, the pathogen needs an efficient transport system. By examining the bacterium's entire genome, the research team identified a new nickel transporter that appears to be essential for the metal acquisition. Once inside the bacterial cell, nickel regulates the synthesis of urease, which in turn neutralizes the acid from the stomach. This gene, along with a number of other encoding proteins involved in nickel homeostasis, was acquired a long time ago by the bacterium via .

Metals are often key players during . It is the case for many other microorganisms, including pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, in which iron plays a major role in its ability to infect the host. However, the genetic reshuffling leading to metal homeostasis modifications in Helicobacter pylori and allowing it to adapt to the gastric environment seems to be quite unique.

Further genetic studies should enable researchers to identify other genes that have been dropped or acquired through evolution, giving microorganisms the characteristics they need to colonize their hosts and cause disease. In a way, we these genes can be considered as messengers from the past. This research work will be used to develop strategies for fighting these infections.

Explore further: Closing in on an ulcer- and cancer-causing bacterium

More information: Frédéric Fischer et al, Characterization in Helicobacter pylori of a Nickel Transporter Essential for Colonization That Was Acquired during Evolution by Gastric Helicobacter Species, PLOS Pathogens (2016). DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006018

Related Stories

Closing in on an ulcer- and cancer-causing bacterium

December 7, 2011

A research team led by scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is releasing study results this week showing how a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, that causes more than half of peptic ulcers worldwide and that has ...

New receptors discovered for Helicobacter pylori

October 18, 2016

Helicobacter pylori is a spiral bacterium that can colonize the human stomach - sometimes with fatal consequences. A research group led by Prof. Markus Gerhard of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Assistant Professor ...

Genes found in H. pylori that influence biofilm formation

July 18, 2016

Most bacteria cannot survive in the acidic environment of the human stomach, but Helicobacter pylori, a major cause of ulcers, thrives under such circumstances. Now research has shown that one of that bacterium's regulatory ...

Recommended for you

Scientist launches hunt for Loch Ness 'monster DNA'

June 17, 2018

Tales of a giant creature lurking beneath the murky waves of Loch Ness have been around for more than 1,500 years—and one academic hopes the marvels of modern science can finally unravel the mystery.

Research shows diet shift of beluga whales in Alaska inlet

June 16, 2018

Beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet may have changed their diet over five decades from saltwater prey to fish and crustaceans influenced by freshwater, according to a study by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers.

Flatworms found to win most battles with harvestmen

June 15, 2018

A trio of researchers with Universidade de São Paulo has documented evidence of flatworms and harvestmen engaging in battle in the forests of Brazil. In their paper published in the Journal of Zoology, M. S. Silva. R. H. ...

eDNA analysis—a key to uncovering rare marine species

June 15, 2018

The days of searching the oceans around the world to find and study rare and endangered marine animals are not over. However, an emerging tool that can be used with just a sample of seawater may help scientists learn more ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.