Structure, biosynthesis and biochemical properties of the HGF receptor in normal and malignant cells.

P. M. Comoglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) and Scatter Factor (SF) are identical glycoproteins secreted by cells of mesodermal origin. The factor has several activities on epithelial cells, including mitogenesis, dissociation of epithelial sheets, stimulation of cell motility, and promotion of matrix invasion. HGF is the ligand for p190MET, the receptor tyrosine kinase encoded by the MET proto-oncogene. This was proved by HGF binding to immunopurified p190MET, chemical cross-linking of radiolabelled ligand, HGF-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of p190MET, and reconstitution of high-affinity binding sites for HGF into insect cells infected with a recombinant baculovirus carrying the human MET cDNA. p190MET is a 190 kDa heterodimer of two (alpha beta) disulfide-linked protein subunits. The alpha subunit is heavily glycosylated and extracellular. The beta subunit bears an extracellular portion involved in ligand binding, a membrane spanning segment and a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase domain with phosphorylation sites regulating its activity. Both subunits originate from glycosylation and proteolytic cleavage of a common precursor of 170 kDa. Alternative post-transcriptional processing originates two truncated Met proteins, endowed with ligand binding activity, lacking the cytoplasmic kinase domain of the beta subunit. One form is soluble and released from the cells. HGF binding triggers tyrosine autophosphorylation of the receptor beta subunit in intact cells. Autophosphorylation upregulates the kinase activity of the receptor, increasing the Vmax of the phosphotransfer reaction. The major phosphorylation site has been mapped to Tyr1235. Negative regulation of the receptor kinase activity occurs through distinguishable pathways involving protein kinase C activation or increase in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. Both lead to the serine phosphorylation of a unique phosphopeptide of the receptor and to a decrease in its kinase activity. Receptor autophosphorylation also triggers the signal transduction pathways inside the target cells. The phosphorylated receptor associates ras GAP, phospholipase C-gamma, and src-related tyrosine kinase in vitro; Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, in vitro and in vivo, indicating that the generation of the D-3 phosphorylated inositol lipids is involved in effecting the motility and/or the growth response to HGF. The p190MET HGF receptor is expressed in several epithelial tissues and it is often overexpressed in neoplastic cells. In some tumors of the gastrointestinal tract the Met tyrosine kinase is constitutively activated, either by overexpression of the amplified MET oncogene or by lack of cleavage of the receptor precursor, due to defective post-translational processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-165
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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