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EMBO J. 2005 Aug 17;24(16):2885-95. Epub 2005 Jul 28.

Hepatocyte growth factor promotes lymphatic vessel formation and function.

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Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The lymphatic vascular system plays a pivotal role in mediating tissue fluid homeostasis and cancer metastasis, but the molecular mechanisms that regulate its formation and function remain poorly characterized. A comparative analysis of the gene expression of purified lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) versus blood vascular endothelial cells (BVEC) revealed that LEC express significantly higher levels of hepatocyte growth factor receptor (HGF-R). Whereas little or no HGF-R expression was detected by lymphatic vessels of normal tissues, HGF-R was strongly expressed by regenerating lymphatic endothelium during tissue repair and by activated lymphatic vessels in inflamed skin. Treatment of cultured LEC with HGF promoted LEC proliferation, migration and tube formation. HGF-induced proliferation of LEC did not require vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 activation, and HGF-induced cell migration was partially mediated via integrin alpha-9. Transgenic or subcutaneous delivery of HGF promoted lymphatic vessel formation in mice, whereas systemic blockade of HGF-R inhibited lymphatic function. These results identify HGF as a novel, potent lymphangiogenesis factor, and also indicate that HGF-R might serve as a new target for inhibiting pathological lymphangiogenesis.

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