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Macrophages are essential components of innate immunity, and apoptosis of these cells impairs mucosal defense to microbes. Helicobacter pylori is a gastric pathogen that infects half of the world population and causes peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. The host inflammatory response fails to eradicate the organism. We have reported that H. pylori induces apoptosis of macrophages by generation of polyamines from ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), which is dependent on c-Myc as a transcriptional enhancer. We have now demonstrated that expression of c-Myc requires phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of ERK, which results in phosphorylation of c-Fos and formation of a specific activator protein (AP)-1 complex. Electromobility shift assay and immunoprecipitation revealed a previously unrecognized complex of phospho-c-Fos (pc-Fos) and c-Jun in the nucleus. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer demonstrated the interaction of pc-Fos and c-Jun. The capacity of this AP-1 complex to bind to putative AP-1 sequences was demonstrated by oligonucleotide pulldown and fluorescence polarization. Binding of the pc-Fos.c-Jun complex to the c-Myc promoter was demonstrated by chromatin immunoprecipitation. A dominant-negative c-Fos inhibited H. pylori-induced expression of c-Myc and ODC and apoptosis. H. pylori infection of mice induced a rapid infiltration of macrophages into the stomach. Concomitant apoptosis depleted these cells, and this was associated with formation of a pc-Fos.c-Jun complex. Treatment of mice with an inhibitor of ERK phosphorylation attenuated phosphorylation of c-Fos, expression of ODC, and apoptosis in gastric macrophages. A unique AP-1 complex in gastric macrophages contributes to the immune escape of H. pylori.