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Am J Pathol. 1998 Jul;153(1):201-12.

Activation of the urokinase plasminogen activator/urokinase plasminogen activator receptor system and redistribution of E-cadherin are associated with hepatocyte growth factor-induced motility of pancreas tumor cells overexpressing Met.

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Unitat de Biologia Cel.lular i Molecular, Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona, Spain.


Because hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a potent mitogen for normal human exocrine pancreas cells (NPCs) in vitro, we have analyzed the expression of HGF and its receptor, Met, in NPC and pancreas cancer cells and studied its effects in vitro. Using immunohistochemistry, Northern blotting, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we examined the expression of HGF and Met in normal pancreas and pancreas cancer. Scatter assays, wound-healing assays, and migration through transwell filters were used to study HGF-stimulated motility of IMIM-PC-2 cancer cells. In tumors, HGF is mainly detected in stromal cells, whereas Met is overexpressed in cancer cells with an unpolarized distribution. In vitro, HGF stimulates motogenesis but not proliferation in cancer cells. Cell motility is accompanied by a rapid decrease in the cytoskeleton-bound E-cadherin, an acceleration of cellular adhesion to the substrate, an up-regulation of urokinase plasminogen activator (u-PA) RNA and protein, and a change in the solubility and proteolysis of the u-PA receptor. Cell motility is significantly reduced by inhibitors of u-PA proteolytic activity such as antibodies neutralizing u-PA activity, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, and amiloride. These results show that a paracrine loop of HGF activation may participate in the development or progression of pancreas cancer. In vitro, the HGF-stimulated motogenesis of pancreas cancer cells involves the activation of the u-PA/u-PA receptor proteolytic system, suggesting its role in the invasive stages of tumor progression.

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