Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of specific bacterial virulence factors can significantly contribute to antibacterial drug discovery. Helicobacter pylori is a Gram-negative microaerophilic bacterium that infects almost half of the world`s population, leading to gastric disorders and even gastric cancer. H. pylori expresses a series of virulence factors in the host, among which high-temperature requirement A (HpHtrA) is a newly identified serine protease secreted by H. pylori. HpHtrA cleaves the extracellular domain of the epithelial cell surface adhesion protein E-cadherin and disrupts gastric epithelial cell junctions, allowing H. pylori to access the intercellular space. Here we report the first crystal structure of HpHtrA at 3.0 Å resolution. The structure revealed a new type of HtrA protease trimer stabilized by unique N-terminal domain swapping distinct from other known HtrA homologs. We further observed that truncation of the N terminus completely abrogates HpHtrA trimer formation as well as protease activity. In the presence of unfolded substrate, HpHtrA assembled into cage-like 12-mers or 24-mers. Combining crystallographic, biochemical, and mutagenic data, we propose a mechanistic model of how HpHtrA recognizes and cleaves the well-folded E-cadherin substrate. Our study provides a fundamental basis for the development of anti-H. pylori agents by using a previously uncharacterized HtrA protease as a target.