The mechanisms by which Helicobacter pylori infection leads to gastroduodenal ulceration remain poorly understood. Previous studies have shown that H. pylori vacuolating cytotoxin (VacA) inhibits proliferation of gastric epithelial cells, which suggests that H pylori may interfere with gastric mucosal repair mechanisms. In this study, we investigated the effects of H. pylori broth culture supernatants on epidermal growth factor (EGF)-mediated signal transduction pathways in a gastric carcinoma cell line (KATO III). Exposure of these cells to EGF resulted in increased expression and phosphorylation of the EGF receptor (EGF-R), increased ERK2 activity and phosphorylation, and increased c-fos protein levels. Preincubation of cells with broth culture supernatant from VacA (+) H. pylori strain 60190 inhibited the capacity of EGF to induce each of these effects. In contrast, preincubation of cells with broth culture supernatant from an isogenic VacA-mutant strain (H. pylori 60190-v1) failed to inhibit the effects of EGF. These results suggest that the H. pylori vacuolating cytotoxin interferes with EGF-activated signal transduction pathways, which are known to be essential for cell proliferation and ulcer healing.