BACKGROUND & AIMS - Helicobacter pylori infection is a risk factor for gastric cancer. Ammonia/ammonium (A/A) is a cytotoxin generated by H pylori that kills gastric epithelial cells. We investigated whether A/A cytotoxicity occurs by activating N-methyl d-aspartate (NMDA) channels, which results in Ca(2+) permeation and epithelial cell death.
METHODS - Gastric epithelial cells were cultured to confluence and then incubated with A/A and NMDA channel or cell signaling antagonists. Cells were incubated with wild-type H pylori or mutant strains that do not produce A/A. Changes in intracellular Ca(2+) were examined in living cells by confocal microscopy. Biochemical and histochemical techniques were used to examine the relationship between A/A-induced cell death and intracellular levels of Ca(2+).
RESULTS - A/A increased Ca(2+) permeation in gastric epithelial cells; the increase was blocked by NMDA receptor and cell signaling antagonists. Wild-type, but not mutant H pylori, also caused extensive Ca(2+) permeation of gastric epithelial cells, which was blocked when NMDA-receptor expression was repressed. Ca(2+) that entered cells was initially cytoplasmic and activated proteases. Later, the Ca(2+) was sequestered to cytoplasmic vacuoles that are dilatations of the endoplasmic reticulum. Inositol-3-phosphate-dependent release of Ca(2+) from the endoplasmic reticulum and protease activity damaged mitochondria, reduced levels of adenosine triphosphate, and transcriptionally up-regulated cell death effectors. Expression of the NMDA receptor was altered in stomachs of mice infected with H pylori.
CONCLUSIONS - A/A affects gastric epithelial cell viability by allowing excessive Ca(2+) permeation through NMDA channels. NMDA channels might thereby regulate cell survival and death pathways during development of gastric cancers associated with H pylori infection.
Copyright © 2011 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.