Human gastric epithelial immortalized GES-1 cells were infected with spiral and coccoid Helicobacter pylori. Scanning electron microscopy was used to determine the ability of the two forms of H. pylori to adhere to GES-1 cells. GES-1 cell apoptosis induced by coccoid and spiral H. pylori was analysed using flow cytometry. A cDNA microarray for 22 000 human genes was used to identify the gene-expression differences in GES-1 cells infected with the two forms of H. pylori, and the gene expression identified by the cDNA microarray was confirmed by RT-PCR. Scanning electron microscope observation showed that both coccoid and spiral bacteria can adhere to GES-1 cells. After 4 h infection, apoptosis induction was 27.4 % for spiral-form infection and 10.2 % for coccoid-form infection. Of 268 differentially expressed genes identified by cDNA microarray, 166 showed higher expression with the spiral H. pylori infection than with the coccoid H. pylori infection. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first report that GES-1 cells infected with spiral H. pylori have higher expression of cxcl10, ccl11, ccl5, groα, TLR5, ATF3, fos, fosl2, gadd45a and myc. The cells infected with coccoid H. pylori had higher expression of survivin. The global profile of gene expression in GES-1 cells infected with coccoid and spiral H. pylori is described for the first time.