Some clinical isolates of Helicobacter pylori fail to express vacuolating cytotoxin, despite possessing a copy of the vacA gene on the chromosome. To gain insight into the differences between vacA from cytotoxic and noncytotoxic strains, the vacA open-reading frames from 16 cytotoxic and 22 noncytotoxic strains were sequenced. Mutations that cause truncation of VacA in 11 of 22 noncytotoxic strains were identified, including internal duplication, large deletion, 1-bp insertion, and non-sense mutations. In contrast, none of the 16 cytotoxic strains had any truncation of VacA. Four cytotoxic strains had inserted sequences downstream of vacA. Three were mini-IS605, and the other was a putative rfaJ gene that encodes lipopolysaccharide glucosyltransferase. The rfaJ gene identified in this study had a poly(C) tract, resulting in premature termination of the gene product. The phylogenetic tree based on the vacA open-reading frame indicated that two different H. pylori lineages are circulating in Japan and the West.