Isotope tracing reveals bacterial catabolism of host-derived glutathione during Helicobacter pylori infection

Maia J. Baskerville, Yekaterina Kovalyova, Raquel Mejías-Luque, Markus Gerhard, Stavroula K. Hatzios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mammalian cells synthesize the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) to shield cellular biomolecules from oxidative damage. Certain bacteria, including the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori, can perturb host GSH homeostasis. H. pylori infection significantly decreases GSH levels in host tissues, which has been attributed to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species in infected cells. However, the precise mechanism of H. pylori-induced GSH depletion remains unknown, and tools for studying this process during infection are limited. We developed an isotope-tracing approach to quantitatively monitor host-derived GSH in H. pylori-infected cells by mass spectrometry. Using this method, we determined that H. pylori catabolizes reduced GSH from gastric cells using γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (gGT), an enzyme that hydrolyzes GSH to glutamate and cysteinylglycine (Cys-Gly). gGT is an established virulence factor with immunomodulatory properties that is required for H. pylori colonization in vivo. We found that H. pylori internalizes Cys-Gly in a gGT-dependent manner and that Cys-Gly production during H. pylori infection is coupled to the depletion of intracellular GSH from infected cells. Consistent with bacterial catabolism of host GSH, levels of oxidized GSH did not increase during H. pylori infection, and exogenous antioxidants were unable to restore the GSH content of infected cells. Altogether, our results indicate that H. pylori-induced GSH depletion proceeds via an oxidation-independent mechanism driven by the bacterial enzyme gGT, which fortifies bacterial acquisition of nutrients from the host. Additionally, our work establishes a method for tracking the metabolic fate of host-derived GSH during infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011526
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


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