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Development. 1995 Sep;121(9):2897-908.

HGF/SF: a potent cytokine for mammary growth, morphogenesis and development.

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  • 1Division of Cell Biology and Experimental Pathology, Institute of Cancer Research, Surrey, UK.


The mammary gland is a renewing tissue in which morphogenetic processes and differentiation occur cyclically during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and lactation. These events have been shown to be dependent upon epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Studies of the effects of individual factors, their cellular source and their target cell populations in the different developmental stages of the mammary gland are greatly facilitated by the accessibility of this organ and the application of new techniques that allow purification of the major epithelial and stromal components of this tissue. Here we demonstrate that HGF/SF and its cellular receptor, c-met, are expressed and regulated temporally during mouse mammary development and differentiation. We show that human and mouse mammary fibroblasts produce HGF/SF and that HGF/SF is not only mitogenic but morphogenic and motogenic for both human and mouse mammary epithelial cells. We have found that human luminal and myoepithelial cells express c-met differentially and that HGF/SF has different effects on these two mammary epithelial cell populations. HGF/SF is mitogenic for luminal cells but not myoepithelial cells, and morphogenic to myoepithelial cells but not luminal cells. This is discussed in the context of the proliferative compartments in the normal mammary gland and the potential role of the myoepithelial cells to act as the skeleton for ductal development.

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