Expression of the Helicobacter pylori blood group antigen binding adhesin A (BabA) is more common in strains isolated from patients with peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer, rather than asymptomatic colonization. Here we used mouse models to examine host determinants that affect H. pylori BabA expression. BabA expression was lost by phase variation as frequently in WT mice as in RAG2-/-mice that do not have functional B or T cells, and in MyD88-/-, TLR2-/-A nd TLR4-/-mice that are defective in toll like receptor signaling. The presence of other bacteria had no effect on BabA expression as shown by infection of germ free mice. Moreover, loss of BabA expression was not dependent on Le b expression or the capacity of BabA to bind Leb. Surprisingly, gender was the host determinant most associated with loss of BabA expression, which was maintained to a greater extent in male mice and was associated with greater bacterial load. These results suggest the possibility that loss of BabA expression is not driven by adaptive immunity or toll-like receptor signaling, and that BabA may have other, unrecognized functions in addition to serving as an adhesin that binds Leb.
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