Helicobacter pylori, T cells and cytokines: the “dangerous liaisons”


*Corresponding author. Tel.: +39055 4296445; fax: +39055 4271494, E-mail address: delios@unifi.it


Helicobacter pylori infection is the major cause of gastroduodenal pathologies, but only a minority of infected patients develop chronic and life threatening diseases, as peptic ulcer, gastric cancer, B-cell lymphoma, or autoimmune gastritis. The type of host immune response against H. pylori is crucial for the outcome of the infection. A predominant H. pylori-specific Th1 response, characterized by high IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-12 production associates with peptic ulcer, whereas combined secretion of both Th1 and Th2 cytokines are present in uncomplicated gastritis. Gastric T cells from MALT lymphoma exhibit abnormal help for autologous B-cell proliferation and reduced perforin- and Fas–Fas ligand-mediated killing of B cells. In H. pylori-infected patients with autoimmune gastritis cytolytic T cells infiltrating the gastric mucosa cross-recognize different epitopes of H. pylori proteins and H+K+ ATPase autoantigen. These data suggest that peptic ulcer can be regarded as a Th1-driven immunopathological response to some H. pylori antigens, whereas deregulated and exhaustive H. pylori-induced T cell-dependent B-cell activation can support the onset of low-grade B-cell lymphoma. Alternatively, H. pylori infection may lead in some individuals to gastric autoimmunity via molecular mimicry.