Gram-negative spiral organisms, currently referred to as Helicobacter pylori, are associated with primary gastritis and duodenal ulceration. The organisms colonise gastric mucus and adhere to epithelial cells of inflamed antra. To further examine the binding of H. pylori to human gastric epithelial cells, we developed and characterised an in-vitro bacterial adherence assay. Scanning electronmicroscopy suggested that spiral-shaped bacteria were adherent to the surface of KATO-III cells which were derived from a human gastric adenocarcinoma. Transmission electronmicroscopy confirmed the attachment of H. pylori to these epithelial cells in tissue culture. Some bacteria were adherent to intact microvilli, others were closely adherent to the plasma membrane in regions where microvilli were effaced. In studies with radiolabelled H. pylori, adherence to epithelial cells in tissue culture contrasted with minimal binding of bacteria to polystyrene wells alone. Incubation of bacteria with gastric cells at 4° significantly reduced adherence of H. pylori. We conclude that adherence of H. pylori to gastric epithelial cells in tissue culture involved “attachment and effacement mechanisms”. This assay could serve as a suitable in-vitro model for the study of the bacterial adhesins and host receptors which mediate attachment of H. pylori to gastric epithelial cell surfaces.


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