The middle fragment of Helicobacter pylori CagA induces Actin rearrangement and triggers its own uptake into gastric epithelial cells

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Cytotoxin-associated gene product A (CagA) is a major virulence factor secreted by Helicobacter pylori. CagA activity in the gastric epithelium is associated with higher risk of gastric cancer development. Bacterial type IV secretion system (T4SS)-mediated translocation of CagA into the cytosol of human epithelial cells occurs via a poorly understood mechanism that requires CagA interaction with the host membrane lipid phosphatidylserine (PS) and host cell receptor integrin α5β1. Here we have characterized the isolated recombinant middle fragment of CagA (CagA-M) that contains the positively-charged PS-binding region (aa 613-636) and a putative β1 integrin binding site, but lacks the EPIYA region, secretion signal peptide and the CagA multimerization motif. We show that CagA-M, when immobilized on latex beads, is capable of binding to, and triggering its own uptake into, gastric epithelial cells in the absence of infection with cagA-positive H. pylori. Using site-directed mutagenesis, fluorescent and electron microscopy, and highly-specific inhibitors, we demonstrate that the cell-binding and endocytosis-like internalization of CagA-M are dependent on (1) binding to PS; (2) β1 integrin activity; and (3) actin dynamics. Interaction of CagA-M with the host cells is accompanied by the development of long filopodia-like protrusions (macrospikes). This novel morphology is different from the hummingbird phenotype induced by the translocation of fulllength CagA. The determinants within CagA-M and within the host that are important for endocytosis-like internalization into host cells are very similar to those observed for T4SS-mediated internalization of full-length CagA, suggesting that the latter may involve an endocytic pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Article number237
Number of pages16
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Actin polymerization
  • Endocytosis
  • Integrin
  • Macrospike protrusions
  • Phosphatidylserine

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