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DNA Cell Biol. 1994 Dec;13(12):1189-97.

Role of hepatocyte growth factor in breast cancer: a novel mitogenic factor secreted by adipocytes.

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Department of Pathology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Stromal cells can dramatically affect the growth and metastatic capability of breast carcinoma cells. Growth factors, considered to be important mediators of this process, act as either mitogenic or mito-inhibitory regulators. We have developed an in vitro coculture system to examine the influence of adipocytes, a dominant mammary stromal cell type, on the growth of a murine mammary carcinoma, SP1. Previously, we have reported that conditioned medium (CM) from 3T3-L1 adipocytes can promote in vitro growth of SP1 cells. We now show that the major mitogenic signal derived from 3T3-L1 adipocyte CM is mediated by hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Neutralizing antibody against HGF at 15 micrograms/ml completely abrogated mitogenic activity of 3T3-L1 CM. Furthermore, heparin, an inhibitor of biological activity of HGF, inhibited the mitogenic activity of 3T3-L1 CM. Western blot analysis also confirmed the presence of HGF in 3T3-L1 CM. Although basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) were mitogenic for SP1 cells, neutralizing antibodies against IGF-I, bFGF, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), and epidermal growth factor (EGF) did not inhibit the mitogenic activity of 3T3-L1 CM. Immunoprecipitation and immunoblotting of HGF receptor/c-met showed that c-met is expressed at high level in SP1 cells, and is phosphorylated following HGF ligation. Together, our present data demonstrate that 3T3-L1 adipocytes secrete HGF, which stimulates SP1 cell growth by a paracrine mechanism. Furthermore, the mitogenic effect of 3T3-L1 CM requires HGF receptor ligation and activation of tyrosine kinase signaling cascades in SP1 cells. These results highlight the importance of stromal-tumor cell interactions and suggest that HGF secreted by adipocytes may be a key regulator of mammary tumor growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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