In order to elucidate the role of polyphosphate kinase (PPK) during the course of an infection by Helicobacter pylori, PPK deficient mutants were constructed using two genetic backgrounds: Hp141v and X47-2AL. The efficiencies of the parental strains and the derivative mutants at colonizing the gastric mucosa of mice were compared. When animals received the Hp141v and the X47-2AL parental strains, 100% of the mice remained colonized for the duration of the 45 days experiment. In contrast, none of the mice that were given the PPK deficient X47-2AL derivative strain had a detectable bacterial load in their gastric mucosa, while the deficient Hp141v derivative strain was detected in 100%, 20% and 40% of the mice at days 3, 15 and 45 post-inoculation (p.i.), respectively. The absence of PPK expression did not impair the in vitro growth of the ppk mutants. However, the reduced ability of the ppk defective mutants to colonize mice was associated with a significant decrease in both motility and in an accumulation of polyP in the bacterial cells. These results are consistent with an essential role of PPK during the initial steps of colonisation of the mouse gastric mucosa and confirm that PPK may act on the virulence of H. pylori partly through an energy dependent mechanism. © 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies.
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