Scientists from University of Illinois have found certain vital clues that might help explain the cause of stomach cancer.
They have found that Helicobacter pylori, the only bacterium known to survive in the harsh environment of the human stomach, directly activates an enzyme in host cells that has been associated with several types of cancer, including gastric cancer.
The study showed that a factor produced by the bacterium directly activates poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1), an enzyme found primarily within the nucleus of animal cells.
It is a regulator of the host's inflammatory response and host cell death, both of which are hallmarks of H. pylori infection.
The researchers say that the studies potentially provide a direct molecular link between H. pylori infection and the activation of a factor known to be involved in the survival of cancerous cells.
"Although PARP-1 can potentially be activated indirectly as a host cell response to some infections, this is the first example of a bacterium that can activate PARP-1 directly, perhaps in this case as a mechanism for H. pylori to promote inflammation and/or the death of host cells during long-term infection," Blanke added.
The research team is now working to identify the bacterial factor that activates PARP-1, which would be a promising target for drugs to treat or prevent the problems associated with long-term infection with H. pylori.
The new study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.