Helicobacter pylori has elaborated a unique set of virulence factors that allow it to colonize the stomach wall. These factors include urease, helicoidal shape, flagella, adhesion and pro-inflammatory molecules. Here we discuss the molecular and cellular mechanisms of action of the vacuolating cytotoxin VacA. Its activities are discussed in terms of tissue alterations which promote the release of nutrients necessary to the growth and survival of the bacterium in its nutrient-poor ecological niche. This toxin also shows some pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activities which may be functional to the establishment of a chronic type of inflammation.