Hepatocyte Growth Factor, also known as Scatter Factor, is a polypeptide that shows structural homology with enzymes of the blood coagulation cascade. It is a biologically inactive single chain precursor that is then cleaved by specific serine proteases to a fully active alphabeta heterodimer. All the biological responses induced by HGF/SF are elicited by binding to its receptor, a transmembrane tyrosine kinase encoded by the MET proto-oncogene. The signaling cascade triggered by HGF begins with the autophosphorylation of the receptor and is mediated by concomitant activation of different cytoplasmic effectors that bind to the same multifunctional docking site. During development, HGF function is essential: knock-out mice for both ligand and receptor show an embryonic lethal phenotype. HGF/SF displays a unique feature in inducing "branching morphogenesis", a complex program of proliferation and motogenesis in a number of different cell types. Moreover, HGF is involved in the invasive behaviour of several tumor cells both in vivo and in vitro. The role of HGF as putative therapeutical agent in pathologies characterized by massive cell loss or deregulated cell proliferation is under investigation.