The blood group antigen hinding adhesin, BabA, which binds to fucosylated blood group antigens, such as the Lewis b (Leb) and H1 antigens constitutes one of the best recognized adhesin-receptor interactions that mediate adherence of Helicobacter pylori to the gastric epithelium. BabA belongs to a family of H. pylori outer membrane, proteins (HOPs), a group of some 30 proteins with most similar N- and C-terminal domains.
We previously identified the babA1 and babA2 genes, where babA2 was found to encode the BabA adhesin in strain CCUG17875. Here, we confirmed the identity of the BabA protein by immunoblot-analysis, followed by MALDIT-OF MS analysis, which also provided molecular weight of the BabA polypeptide and the unique peptide sequences for BabA. Surprisingly, the BabA protein was found to be expressed 50-fold higher compared to the number of calculated bacterial Leb-binding sites.
Furthermore, surface scan of the bacterial membrane by freeze fracture immuno-EM technique localized the BabA by immunogold labeling to the bacterial surface in numbers similar to the predicted binding sites. To help explain the binding results, crosslinker-analyses were performed which revealed that BabA form supra-molecular complexes on the bacterial surfaces. In addition, binding to the Lewis b antigen was shown to be pH dependent and took place over a broad pH range but binding activity was reversibly lost when approaching pH 3, i.e. conditions similar to the acidic gastric juice.
The binding activity of the BabA adhesin was shown to be sensitive for reducing conditions, which suggests the presence of disulfide bond(s) close to the carbohydrate-binding domain. The dynamics of BabA in Leb-binding suggest that the bacterial adhesin is regulated by local variations in pH and redox potential, such as the pH gradient in the slimy mucus lining of the epithelium, and the reduced conditions of the inflamed gastric mucosa.