The Sweeping Role of Cholesterol Depletion in the Persistence of Helicobacter pylori Infections.

Pau Morey, Thomas F Meyer
Year of publication:
Journal title abbreviated:
Journal title long:
Current topics in microbiology and immunology = Ergebnisse der Mikrobiologie und Immunitätsforschung
Impact factor:
The ability of Helicobacter pylori to persist lifelong in the human gastric mucosa is a striking phenomenon. It is even more surprising since infection is typically associated with a vivid inflammatory response. Recent studies revealed the mechanism by which this pathogen inhibits the epithelial responses to IFN-γ and other central inflammatory cytokines in order to abolish an effective antimicrobial defense. The mechanism is based on the modification and depletion of cholesterol by the pathogen's cholesterol-α-glucosyltransferase. It abrogates the assembly of numerous cytokine receptors due to the reduction of lipid rafts. Particularly, the receptors for IFN-γ, IL-22, and IL-6 then fail to assemble properly and to activate JAK/STAT signaling. Consequently, cholesterol depletion prevents the release of antimicrobial peptides, including the highly effective β-defensin-3. Intriguingly, the inhibition is spatially restricted to heavily infected cells, while the surrounding epithelium continues to respond normally to cytokine stimulation, thus providing a platform of the intense inflammation typically observed in H. pylori infections. It appears that pathogen and host establish a homeostatic balance between tightly colonized and rather inflamed sites. This homeostasis is influenced by the levels of available cholesterol, which potentially exacerbate H. pylori-induced inflammation. The observed blockage of epithelial effector mechanisms by H. pylori constitutes a convincing explanation for the previous failures of T-cell-based vaccination against H. pylori, since infected epithelial cells remain inert upon stimulation by effector cytokines. Moreover, the mechanism provides a rationale for the carcinogenic action of this pathogen in that persistent infection and chronic inflammation represent a pro-carcinogenic environment. Thus, cholesterol-α-glucosyltransferase has been revealed as a central pathogenesis determinant of H. pylori.