Helicobacter pylori strains that harbor the oncoprotein CagA increase gastric cancer risk, and this risk is augmented under iron-deficient conditions. We demonstrate here that iron depletion induces coccoid morphology in strains lacking cagA. To evaluate the stability of augmented H. pylori virulence phenotypes stimulated by low-iron conditions, H. pylori isolated from iron-depleted conditions in vivo were serially passaged in vitro. Long-term passage decreased the ability of hypervirulent strains to translocate CagA or induce interleukin 8, indicating that hypervirulent phenotypes stimulated by low-level iron conditions are reversible. Therefore, rectifying iron deficiency may attenuate disease among H. pylori-infected persons with no response to antibiotics.
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