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Stomach damage by H. pylori under partial control of Mua protein

Helicobacter pylori’s own heartburn remedy may be a good means for preventing the damage the stomach-ulcer pathogen causes. H. pylori lives happily in the stomachs of about half of the world’s population, where it relies heavily on the enzyme urease to break down urea in stomach acid into carbon dioxide and ammonia. The carbon dioxide acts much like a package of Tums would, neutralizing acid and making the environment more hospitable for themselves. It’s the ammonia that makes H. pylori infections so painful, as it eats right through the lining of the stomach.

A study published in mBio this week reveals that production of the acid-killing urease is under the partial control of a nickel-binding protein called the Mua protein, and when nickel concentrations are high, Mua represses transcription of urease. Understanding the mode of action of this protein and of the many other factors involved in the nickel-dependent tuning of urease levels could offer insights into how to control this ubiquitous pathogen.

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