Natural Antibiotic Function of a Human Gastric Mucin Against Helicobacter pylori Infection

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Science  13 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5686, pp. 1003-1006
DOI: 10.1126/science.1099250

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Helicobacter pylori infects the stomachs of nearly a half the human population, yet most infected individuals remain asymptomatic, which suggests that there is a host defense against this bacterium. Because H. pylori is rarely found in deeper portions of the gastric mucosa, where O-glycans are expressed that have terminal α1,4-linked N-acetylglucosamine, we tested whether these O-glycans might affect H. pylori growth. Here, we report that these O-glycans have antimicrobial activity against H. pylori, inhibiting its biosynthesis of cholesteryl-α-D-glucopyranoside, a major cell wall component. Thus, the unique O-glycans in gastric mucin appeared to function as a natural antibiotic, protecting the host from H. pylori infection.

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