Diabetic nephropathy is now the leading cause of end-stage renal diseases, and glomerular sclerotic injury is an initial event that provokes renal dysfunction during processes of diabetes-linked kidney disease. Growing evidence shows that transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) plays a key role in this process, especially in eliciting hypertrophy and matrix overaccumulation. Thus it is important to find a ligand system to antagonize the TGF-beta 1-mediated pathogenesis under high-glucose conditions. Herein, we provide evidence that hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) targets mesangial cells, suppresses TGF-beta 1 production, and minimizes glomerular sclerotic changes, using streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. In our murine model, glomerular sclerogenesis (such as tuft area expansion and collagen deposition) progressed between 6 and 10 wk after the induction of hyperglycemia, during a natural course of diabetic disease. Glomerular HGF expression levels in the diabetic kidney transiently increased but then declined below a basal level, with manifestation of glomerular sclerogenesis. When anti-HGF IgG was injected into mice for 2 wk (i.e., from weeks 4 to 6 after onset of hyperglycemia), these glomerular changes were significantly aggravated. When recombinant HGF was injected into the mice for 4 wk (i.e., between 6 and 10 wk following streptozotocin treatment), the progression of glomerular hypertrophy and sclerosis was almost completely inhibited, even though glucose levels remained unchanged (>500 mg/dl). Even more important, HGF repressed TGF-beta 1 production in glomerular mesangial cells even under hyperglycemic conditions both in vitro and in vivo. Consequently, not only albuminuria but also tubulointerstitial fibrogenesis were attenuated by HGF. Overall, HGF therapy inhibited the onset of renal dysfunction in the diabetic mice. On the basis of these findings, we wish to emphasize that HGF plays physiological and therapeutic roles in blocking renal fibrogenesis during a course of diabetic nephropathy.