Molecular characteristics of HGF-SF and its role in cell motility and invasion.

K. M. Weidner, G. Hartmann, L. Naldini, P. M. Comoglio, M. Sachs, C. Fonatsch, H. Rieder, W. Birchmeier

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Scatter factor (SF), a secretory protein of fibroblasts, dissociates and increases the motility of epithelial cells and may be involved in cell migration processes during embryogenesis and tumor progression. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a potent mitogen for hepatocytes and other cells, and is thought to play a role in liver regeneration. We have presented structural and functional evidence that human SF and human HGF are identical proteins encoded by a single gene, since (i) no differences could be found by protein sequencing, by cDNA analysis, or by immunological comparison, and (ii) SF acts as a hepatocyte growth factor--i.e., stimulates DNA synthesis of primary hepatocytes and is a morphogen of kidney epithelial cells--whereas HGF exhibits SF activity--i.e., dissociates and induces invasiveness of various epithelial cells. Furthermore, there exists only one gene for human HGF-SF which is located on chromosome 7, bands q11.2-21 (Weidner et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88, 7001-7005, 1991). HGF-SF has been found to be the ligand of the c-met receptor tyrosine kinase (Naldini et al., EMBO J. 10, 2867-2878, 1991b). We have recently used transient expression of naturally occurring and in vitro mutagenized cDNAs of HGF-SF in order to delineate the protein domains necessary for biological activity and c-met receptor activation. (i) A single-chain HGF-SF resulting from the destruction of the protease cleavage site between heavy and light chain (Arg494 to Gln) was largely inactive, indicating that proteolytic cleavage is essential for acquisition of the biologically active conformation. (ii) A HGF-SF splice variant encoding a protein with a 5 amino acid deletion in the first kringle domain was as highly active as the wild type molecule. (iii) The separately expressed light chain (with serine protease homology) was inactive in all assays tested. (iv) The separate heavy chain as well as a naturally occurring splice variant consisting of the N-terminus and the first two kringle domains bound the met receptor, stimulated its tyrosine phosphorylation, and induced dissociation of epithelial cells but not mitogenesis. These data indicate that a functional domain in the N-terminal region and/or the first two kringle domains of HGF-SF is sufficient for binding to and activation of the met receptor (Hartmann et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, in press).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-328
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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