Hepatocyte growth factor and its receptor are required for malaria infection

Nat Med. 2003 Nov;9(11):1363-9. doi: 10.1038/nm947. Epub 2003 Oct 12.


Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria, must first infect hepatocytes to initiate a mammalian infection. Sporozoites migrate through several hepatocytes, by breaching their plasma membranes, before infection is finally established in one of them. Here we show that wounding of hepatocytes by sporozoite migration induces the secretion of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which renders hepatocytes susceptible to infection. Infection depends on activation of the HGF receptor, MET, by secreted HGF. The malaria parasite exploits MET not as a primary binding site, but as a mediator of signals that make the host cell susceptible to infection. HGF/MET signaling induces rearrangements of the host-cell actin cytoskeleton that are required for the early development of the parasites within hepatocytes. Our findings identify HGF and MET as potential targets for new approaches to malaria prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Malaria / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Plasmodium / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Actins
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met