Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor is an axonal chemoattractant and a neurotrophic factor for spinal motor neurons

Neuron. 1996 Dec;17(6):1157-72. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)80247-0.


In the embryonic nervous system, developing axons can be guided to their targets by diffusible factors secreted by their intermediate and final cellular targets. To date only one family of chemoattractants for developing axons has been identified. Grafting and ablation experiments in fish, amphibians, and birds have suggested that spinal motor axons are guided to their targets in the limb in part by a succession of chemoattractants made by the sclerotome and by the limb mesenchyme, two intermediate targets that these axons encounter en route to their target muscles. Here we identify the limb mesenchyme-derived chemoattractant as hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF), a diffusible ligand for the c-Met receptor tyrosine kinase, and we also implicate HGF/SF at later stages as a muscle-derived survival factor for motoneurons. These results indicate that, in addition to functioning as a mitogen, a motogen, and a morphogen in nonneural systems, HGF/SF can function as a guidance and survival factor in the developing nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotactic Factors / physiology*
  • Extremities / embryology
  • Extremities / innervation
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Rats / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*


  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor