We investigated whether Helicobacter pylori cells actively secrete proteins such as the urease subunits UreA and UreB and the GroES and GroEL homologs HspA and HspB or whether these proteins were present in the extracellular compartment as a consequence of autolysis. Using a subcellular fractionation approach associated with quantitative Western blot analyses, we showed that the supernatant protein profiles were very different from those of the cell pellets, even for bacteria harvested in the late growth phase; this suggests that the release process is selective. A typical cytoplasmic protein, a β-galactosidase homolog, was found exclusively associated with the pellet of whole-cell extracts, and no traces were found in the supernatant. In contrast, UreA, UreB, HspA, and HspB were mostly found in the pellet but significant amounts were also present in the supernatant. HspA and UreB were released into the supernatant at the same rate throughout the growth phase (3%), whereas large portions of HspB and UreA were released during the stationary phase (over 30 and 20%, respectively) rather than during the early growth phase (20% and 6, respectively). The profiles of protein obtained after water extraction of the bacteria with those of the proteins naturally released within the liquid culture supernatants demonstrated that water extraction led to the release of a large amount of protein due to artifactual lysis. Our data support the conclusion that a specific and selective mechanism(s) is involved in the secretion of some H. pylori antigens. A programmed autolysis process does not seem to make a major contribution.