Helicobacter pylori strains that possess the cag pathogenicity island induce more severe gastritis and augment the risk of developing peptic ulcer disease and distal gastric cancer. A specific mechanism by which cag(+) strains may enhance gastritis is strain-selective regulation of interleukin (IL)-8 production. On contact with gastric epithelial cells, H. pylori activates multiple signal transduction cascades that regulate IL-8 secretion, including nuclear factor-kappaB and mitogen-activated protein kinases, and these events are dependent on genes within the cag island. An independent effect of cag-mediated cellular contact is translocation and phosphorylation of H. pylori proteins within the host epithelial cell. The redundancy of intracellular signaling cascades activated by H. pylori and the divergent epithelial cell responses induced by components of the cag island may contribute to the ability of this organism to persist for decades within the gastric niche.