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Development. 1992 Oct;116(2):387-95.

The presence of hepatocyte growth factor in the developing rat.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA 15261.


Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a heparin-binding polypeptide mitogen, stimulates DNA synthesis in adult rat and human hepatocytes and in several other cells of epithelial origin. Recently, it was determined that scatter factor (SF), a protein that has been shown to cause the dispersion and migration of epithelial cells in culture, is identical to HGF. Moreover, the receptor for HGF was identified as the product of the proto-oncogene, c-MET, a tyrosine kinase-containing transmembrane protein. c-MET expression has been reported in a variety of adult and embryonic mouse tissues. Similarly, we and others have demonstrated that HGF is expressed in various adult rat and human tissues. In the present study, the tissue distribution of HGF during rat development was determined by immunohistochemistry using an HGF-specific polyclonal antiserum. Between day 12 and day 19, immunoreactivity for HGF was present in various locations such as hematopoietic cells, somites, squamous epithelium of the esophagus and skin, periventricular germinal matrix of the brain, bronchial epithelium, renal collecting tubules and chondrocytes. After day 19, HGF immunoreactivity was also present in the pancreas, submaxillary glands and neural tissues. In addition to immunolocalizing HGF in tissue sections, bioreactive and immunoreactive HGF was extracted and purified from rat fetuses. Other studies demonstrated the presence of HGF and c-MET mRNA in total fetal rat, and in fetal and neonatal rat liver. Addition of purified HGF to fetal and neonatal rat liver cultures enriched for hepatocytes stimulated DNA synthesis up to six-fold over controls. These findings strongly suggest a pivotal role for this potent regulator of growth and development.

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