Helicobacter pylori are Gram-negative bacteria that persistently colonize the human gastric mucosa despite the recruitment of immune cells. The H. pylori vacuolating cytotoxin (VacA) recently has been shown to inhibit stimulation-induced proliferation of primary human CD4(+) T cells. In this study, we investigated effects of VacA on the proliferation of various other types of primary human immune cells. Intoxication of PBMC with VacA inhibited the stimulation-induced proliferation of CD4(+) T cells, CD8(+) T cells, and B cells. VacA also inhibited the proliferation of purified primary human CD4(+) T cells that were stimulated by dendritic cells. VacA inhibited both T cell-induced and PMA/anti-IgM-induced proliferation of purified B cells. Intoxication with VacA did not alter the magnitude of calcium flux that occurred upon stimulation of CD4(+) T cells or B cells, indicating that VacA does not alter early signaling events required for activation and proliferation. VacA reduced the mitochondrial membrane potential of CD4(+) T cells, but did not reduce the mitochondrial membrane potential of B cells. We propose that the immunomodulatory actions of VacA on T and B lymphocytes, the major effectors of the adaptive immune response, may contribute to the ability of H. pylori to establish a persistent infection in the human gastric mucosa.