Hepatocyte growth factor protects hepatoblastoma cells from chemotherapy-induced apoptosis by AKT activation

Int J Oncol. 2010 May;36(5):1261-7. doi: 10.3892/ijo_00000610.


Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF) is a ubiquitously expressed molecule that elicits pleiotropic functions on epithelial cells, including mitogenic, motogenic, differentiating, angiogenic and morphogenic effects. In hepatoblastoma (HB), post-operative residual tumor growth and tumor recurrences are often associated with markedly elevated serum levels of HGF, suggesting a link between this molecule and tumor malignancy. Here, we demonstrate that HGF has no impact on overall cell viability and proliferation of HB cells, although signal transduction occurs downstream of HGF, such as c-Met phosphorylation, activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/ERK-1/2 signaling. Instead of being mitogenic, HGF confers anti-apoptotic properties upon serum starvation and moreover protects HB cells against strong apoptotic inducers such as cisplatin and camptothecin, thereby contributing to chemotherapeutic resistance. This effect is mainly dependent on the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway, since inhibition by wortmannin resulted in abrogation of HGF-mediated survival, whereas inhibition of the MAPK pathway had no effect. Together, these findings highlight the importance of HGF in tumor cell survival and suggest that HGF and its cognate receptor c-Met should be considered as a candidate for combined therapeutic strategies of advanced pediatric liver tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Hepatoblastoma / drug therapy
  • Hepatoblastoma / metabolism*
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Cisplatin
  • Camptothecin