Visualization of Helicobacter Species Within the Murine Cecal Mucosa Using Specific Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization


Reprint requests to: Hazel Mitchell, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Biological Sciences Building, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail:


Background.  Members of the genus Helicobacter have been associated with colitis development in a number of immunodeficient animal models. While it is known that these organisms can initiate colitis development, the location and spatial distribution of these bacteria within the intestinal tract is currently unknown. In this study, we developed and optimized fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes specifically for Helicobacter species.

Materials and Methods.  Based on 16S-RNA gene alignments, two probes specific for the entire family Helicobacteraceae and two probes specific for Helicobacter ganmani and Helicobacter hepaticus were designed. Evaluation of these probes was determined using ATCC reference strains and cecum samples from ten IL-10 knockout mice. The presence of Helicobacter species was determined using FISH and verified using PCR-DGGE and microscopic examination of silver stained sections.

Results.  Analysis of the ATCC reference strains revealed that the probes HEL274/HEL717 were specific for the family Helicobacteraceae, while HEP642 was specific for H. hepaticus and GAN1237 for H. ganmani. Using these probes, a pattern of spatial localization of the two different Helicobacter species was observed in the cecum tissues of IL-10 knockout mice. This consistently showed that H. ganmani was localized to the lower regions and H. hepaticus to the mid-upper regions of the crypts.

Conclusion.  We have developed FISH probes specific for the family Helicobacteraceae as well as two individual Helicobacter species. This study will allow the future use of the FISH to better understand host-pathogen interactions in vitro.