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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2000 Nov;19(6):779-802.

Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor in the eye.

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  • 1Unit of Ophthalmology, Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Duncan Building, L69 3GA, Liverpool, UK.


Hepatocyte growth factor, also known as scatter factor (HGF/SF) is a multipotential cytokine which can produce a range of responses in target cells and its influence in the eye in health and disease is just beginning to be appreciated. Usually HGF/SF is synthesised by mesenchymally derived cells and targets and signals epithelial cells in a paracrine manner via their c-Met surface receptor. However, there is growing evidence for the existence of autocrine loops in a number of cell systems prominent among which are ocular cells such as the corneal endothelium, the lens epithelium, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and others. Marked cellular proliferation is stimulated when activated HGF/SF is exposed to hepatocytes, renal epithelium, melanocytes and vascular endothelial cells but it is often a poor mitogen for other cell types. In target cells the cytokine promotes other bioactions such as junctional breakdown, shape change, cell scattering, directional and nondirectional migration, cell survival, invasive behaviour and/or tubule formation. These activities seem to depend on HGF/SF linking with the c-Met receptor and pathways to stimulate the various types of cytokine/receptor response are being unravelled at the present time. In corneal wound healing, HGF/SF is produced by stromal keratocytes and targets the repairing epithelium. HGF/SF is a constituent of tears, aqueous humour and vitreous humour at levels above that found in plasma although it is not clear how much is activated. Aqueous HGF/SF may well influence lens epithelial, corneal endothelial and trabecular meshwork cell survival. Vitreous levels of HGF/SF are elevated in proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), where a target cell is the RPE and in proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) where HGF/SF has been shown to be a major angiogenesis factor. Finally HGF/SF may be involved in the metastatic spread of tumour cells from uveal melanomata and in the formation of vascular channels in these tumours.

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