Overexpression of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) receptor (Met) and presence of a truncated and activated intracellular HGF receptor fragment in locally aggressive/malignant human musculoskeletal tumors

Am J Pathol. 2000 Mar;156(3):821-9. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64950-4.


Enhanced hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) receptor (Met) signaling has been suggested to play an important role in the development and progression of various epithelial and nonepithelial tumors. N-terminally truncated forms of the HGF receptor have been shown to be constitutively activated and tumorigenic in animal experiments. In the present study, 102 benign and malignant human musculoskeletal tumors were examined for expression of the HGF receptor by Western blotting and/or immunohistochemistry. A clear predominance of HGF receptor expression was seen in malignant as compared to benign tumors (Western blotting, P < 0.001; immunohistochemistry, P < 0.02). For the first time we show HGF receptor expression in the following four tumor types: dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, clear cell sarcoma of tendons, malignant primitive neuroectodermal tumor, and benign fibrous histiocytoma. In three cases of sarcoma with high HGF receptor expression by Western blotting, we found indications of a short 85-kd N-terminally truncated HGF receptor that was tyrosine phosphorylated and located in the cytoplasm. Although fragments of this length were seen in 18 of 65 tumors, most were not tyrosine-phosphorylated. Northern blotting revealed only the 7.5-kb full-length HGF receptor transcript, suggesting that the 85-kd fragment is generated by an alternative initiation of translation or by proteolytic cleavage. Southern blotting detected no amplification of the Hgfr/Met gene in the 35 tumors examined, in contrast to our recent report of Hgfr/Met gene amplification in 7, 12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced rat sarcomas. The present data suggest that the locally aggressive and malignant properties of human mesenchymal tumors maybe related, in part, to high levels of full-length HGF receptors, and in some cases to the occurrence of N-terminally truncated HGF receptors, activated independently of HGF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Bone Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Bone Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / chemistry
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / metabolism
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / pathology
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Histiocytoma, Benign Fibrous / chemistry
  • Histiocytoma, Benign Fibrous / metabolism
  • Histiocytoma, Benign Fibrous / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / chemistry
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / metabolism
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / pathology
  • Peptide Fragments / analysis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / biosynthesis*
  • Sarcoma, Clear Cell / chemistry
  • Sarcoma, Clear Cell / metabolism
  • Sarcoma, Clear Cell / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • RON protein
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases