Expression of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor (MET) in medullary carcinoma of the thyroid

Mauro Papotti, Martina Olivero, Marco Volante, Francesco Negro, Maria Prat, Paolo M. Comoglio, Maria Flavia Direnzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The tyrosine kinase receptor encoded by the MET oncogene has the unusual property of mediating the invasive growth of epithelial cells upon binding with the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). The MET/HGF receptor is known to be overexpressed in thyroid carcinomas originated from follicular cells, but has not been reported in C cell tumors. To investigate the role of HGF and of its receptor (encoded by MET oncogene] in medullary carcinoma of the thyroid (MCT), we studied the expression of HGF and MET in 20 cases by means of different techniques. By RT-PCR, HGF mRNA was found in 10/20 cases, while MET mRNA presence was demonstrated in 8/20, of which 7 also expressed HGF. Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization were performed in selected cases and confirmed RT-PCR data in some cases, although the lower sensitivity of these procedures did not allow the identification of all RT-PCR positive cases. By immunohistochemistry (using specific monoclonal antibodies) HGF was demonstrated in 8/9 RT-PCR positive cases and a monoclonal to MET immunostained 5/6 RT-PCR positive cases. All receptor positive cases also expressed the ligand in the same tumor cell population. These findings demonstrate MET and HGF co-expression in a subset of MCT, in which autocrine/paracrine circuits may be active. No correlation was found between HGF/MET expression and clinico-pathological parameters, except for the more common multifocality of HGF/MET positive MCT. Whether the potential activation of MET in MCT is responsible for local invasion and malignant evolution is to be further investigated, especially in multifocal and aggressive tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalEndocrine Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • HGF
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • MET oncogene
  • RT-PCR
  • Thyroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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