Helicobacter pylori persistently colonize the human stomach and have been linked to atrophic gastritis and gastric carcinoma. Although it is well known that H. pylori infection can result in hypochlorhydria, the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain poorly understood. Here we show that VacA permeabilizes the apical membrane of gastric parietal cells and induces hypochlorhydria. The functional consequences of VacA infection on parietal cell physiology were studied using freshly isolated rabbit gastric glands and cultured parietal cells. Secretory activity of parietal cells was judged by an aminopyrine uptake assay and confocal microscopic examination. VacA permeabilization induces an influx of extracellular calcium, followed by activation of calpain and subsequent proteolysis of ezrin at Met(469)-Thr(470), which results in the liberation of ezrin from the apical membrane of the parietal cells. VacA treatment inhibits acid secretion by preventing the recruitment of H,K-ATPase-containing tubulovesicles to the apical membrane of gastric parietal cells. Electron microscopic examination revealed that VacA treatment disrupts the radial arrangement of actin filaments in apical microvilli due to the loss of ezrin integrity in parietal cells. Significantly, expression of calpain-resistant ezrin restored the functional activity of parietal cells in the presence of VacA. Proteolysis of ezrin in VacA-infected parietal cells is a novel mechanism underlying H. pylori-induced inhibition of acid secretion. Our results indicate that VacA disrupts the apical membrane-cytoskeletal interactions in gastric parietal cells and thereby causes hypochlorhydria.