Aim: Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) was originally identified as a factor that stimulates the mitogenesis of hepatocyte, and also plays a role in maintaining pregnancy. We conducted this study to evaluate the changes in plasma concentrations of HGF and its associated factors during normal pregnancy.
Methods: Blood specimens were obtained from 14 healthy non-pregnant and 175 healthy pregnant and post-partum women (189 women in all). The women's plasma concentrations of total HGF, active HGF, active HGF activator (HGFA), HGF activator inhibitor type 1 (HAI-1) and HGF activator inhibitor type 2 (HAI-2) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: The levels of active HGF and HGF activator were significantly lower in pregnant women compared with those of non-pregnant women. The level of plasma HAI-1 significantly increased as pregnancy progressed, while it fell post-partum. Also, there were no differences in the concentrations of total HGF and HAI-2 in non-pregnant and pregnant women.
Conclusion: A high concentration of HAI-1 during pregnancy may decrease the plasma level of active HGFA. This may in turn inhibit the activation of the precursor form of HGF, leading to a decrease in the level of plasma active HGF.