Expression of hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor and its receptor, MET, suggests roles in human embryonic organogenesis

Pediatr Res. 1997 May;41(5):657-65. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199705000-00010.


Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) is secreted by mesenchymal cells and elicits proliferation, motility, differentiation, and morphogenesis of epithelia and other cells. These effects are mediated by binding to MET, a receptor tyrosine kinase. Genetically engineered mice lacking HGF/SF die in utero due to a failure of placental and hepatocyte differentiation, but little information exists regarding the expression of this signaling system in human development. Using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, Western blots, and immunohistochemistry, we report that HGF/SF and MET are expressed during critical early periods of human organogenesis from 6 to 13 wk of gestation. Organs that expressed both genes included liver, metanephric kidney, intestine, and lung, each of which develop by inductive interactions between mesenchyme and epithelia. Of all organs studied, the placenta contained the highest levels of HGF/SF protein, and MET was detected in trophoblastic cells of chorionic villi as early as the 5th wk of gestation. Finally, examination of a human multicystic dysplastic kidney demonstrated that malformed, hyperproliferative tubules expressed MET, whereas HGF/SF protein was immunolocalized to the same epithelia and also to the surrounding undifferentiated cells. Hence HGF/SF might be an important growth factor in normal human embryogenesis and may additionally play a role in human organ malformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Fetus
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gestational Age
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / embryology
  • Kidney / embryology
  • Liver / embryology
  • Lung / embryology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Specificity
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / embryology
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases