Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach is accompanied by a persistent polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMNL) infiltrate of the mucosa. The aim of this work was to study the activation of human PMNL by substances produced by H pylori. Filtered H pylori conditioned media stimulated a significant PMNL oxidative burst (p less than 0.002). This was equal to 26% of the maximal response stimulated by the PMNL chemotactic peptide N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP, 1 mumol/l). The response to FMLP was prolonged by the combined presence of complement inactivated human anti-H pylori plasma and conditioned medium (p less than 0.002). High pressure liquid chromatography of an extract of conditioned medium showed a fraction that stimulated PMNL, eluted, and antigenically cross reacted with FMLP. Washed H pylori cells, and those opsonised with complement inactivated human anti-H pylori plasma, did not induce a significant oxidative burst. Opsonized H pylori, however, prolonged the oxidative burst induced by FMLP (p less than 0.02). In conclusion, H pylori synthesizes and secretes a substance, probably FMLP, that may account for the PMNL accumulation that accompanies H pylori infections. Immune complexes composed of H pylori antigen and specific antibody potentiate the PMNL oxidative burst. This combination of H pylori derived products, and host PMNL and antibodies, may be involved in the mucosal damage observed in H pylori associated gastritis.
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