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Protein Sci. 1994 Dec;3(12):2378-94.

Molecular evolution and domain structure of plasminogen-related growth factors (HGF/SF and HGF1/MSP).

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Department of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London, United Kingdom.


Plasminogen-related growth factors, a new family of polypeptide growth factors with the basic domain organization and mechanism of activation of the blood proteinase plasminogen, include hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF), a potent effector of the growth, movement, and differentiation of epithelia and endothelia, and hepatocyte growth factor-like/macrophage stimulating protein (HGF1/MSP), an effector of macrophage chemotaxis and phagocytosis. Phylogeny of the serine proteinase domains and analysis of intron-exon boundaries and kringle sequences indicate that HGF/SF, HGF1/MSP, plasminogen, and apolipoprotein (a) have evolved from a common ancestral gene that consisted of an N-terminal domain corresponding to plasminogen activation peptide (PAP), 3 copies of the kringle domain, and a serine proteinase domain. Models of the N domains of HGF/SF, HGF1/MSP, and plasminogen, characterized by the presence of 4 conserved Cys residues forming a loop in a loop, have been modeled based on disulfide-bond constraints. There is a distinct pattern of charged and hydrophobic residues in the helix-strand-helix motif proposed for the PAP domain of HGF/SF; these may be important for receptor interaction. Three-dimensional structures of the 4 kringle and the serine proteinase domains of HGF/SF were constructed by comparative modeling using the suite of programs COMPOSER and were energy minimized. Docking of a lysine analogue indicates a putative lysine-binding pocket within kringle 2 (and possibly another in kringle 4). The models suggest a mechanism for the formation of a noncovalent HGF/SF homodimer that may be responsible for the activation of the Met receptor. These data provide evidence for the divergent evolution and structural similarity of plasminogen, HGF/SF, and HGF1/MSP, and highlight a new strategy for growth factor evolution, namely the adaptation of a proteolytic enzyme to a role in receptor activation.

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