AIM: To investigate the prevalence, and relation to Helicobacter pylori, of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb using a monoclonal antibody directed against H+,K(+)-ATPase (HK12.18). METHODS: Twenty six patients with duodenal ulcer disease and 16 healthy controls were studied. H pylori status was determined by gastric histology and culture and by the 13C-urea breath test. Four biopsy specimens were taken from the duodenal bulb and stained with HK12.18. The presence/absence and number of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb were assessed blindly by a histopathologist. RESULTS: The overall prevalence of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb was 31% (13/42) and was similar in patients with duodenal ulcer and in controls, and in H pylori positive and negative subjects. The median (range) number of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb was 7.5 (4-20) parietal cells/subject, and was similar in all four groups. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb (31%) is notably higher than previously reported in endoscopic studies, and is in keeping with reports from studies on necropsy/operative specimens. There was no difference in the prevalence or number of parietal cells in the duodenal bulb between patients with duodenal ulcer and controls, regardless of H pylori status. These findings suggest that parietal cells in the duodenal bulb do not contribute to the pathogenesis of duodenal ulcer.