Chronic antral gastritis following Helicobacter pylori (Hp) infection is characterized by a cellular inflammatory infiltrate whose cytokines may represent a host-dependent factor influencing the outcome of the infection. The pattern of cytokines produced by the immunologically active cells in the gastric antrum was analyzed at the mRNA level in antral biopsies from five Hp-infected patients with duodenal ulcer and three Hp-negative dyspeptic controls. T cell clones were generated from parallel antral biopsies of the same Hp-infected patients and assessed for reactivity to Hp Ags, cytokine profile, and effector functions. Antral biopsies from all Hp-infected patients showed IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and IL-12, but not IL-4, mRNA expression, whereas no cytokine mRNA signal was found in the mucosa of controls. A total of 24 out of the 163 CD4+ T cell clones (15%) derived from Hp-infected patients proliferated in response to a Hp lysate; 11 clones (46%) also reacted with Cag-A, 2 with Vac-A, and 1 with urease. Upon Ag stimulation, 20 out of the 24 Hp-reactive clones (83%) produced IFN-gamma, but not IL-4 or IL-5 (Th1-like), whereas 4 produced IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-5 (Th0-like). All Hp-specific clones secreted high levels of TNF-alpha. At low T:B cell ratio, Hp-specific clones expressed Ag-dependent helper function for B cell proliferation and Ig production, whereas at higher T:B cell ratios, 15 Th1 and 2 Th0 clones lysed Ag-pulsed autologous EBV-transformed B cells. Results provide evidence for Hp-specific Th1 effectors in the gastric antrum of Hp-infected patients, where they may play a role in the genesis of either peptic ulcer or Hp-associated gastric B cell lymphoma.

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