Indexed on: 12 Apr '00Published on: 12 Apr '00Published in: Kidney International
Can science discover some secrets of Greek mythology? In the case of Prometheus, we can now suppose that his amazing hepatic regeneration was caused by a peptide growth factor called hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Increasing evidence indicates that HGF acts as a multifunctional cytokine on different cell types. This review addresses the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for the pleiotropic effects of HGF. HGF binds with high affinity to its specific tyrosine kinase receptor c-met, thereby stimulating not only cell proliferation and differentiation, but also cell migration and tumorigenesis. The three fundamental principles of medicine-prevention, diagnosis, and therapy-may be benefited by the rational use of HGF. In renal tubular cells, HGF induces mitogenic and morphogenetic responses. In animal models of toxic or ischemic acute renal failure, HGF acts in a renotropic and nephroprotective manner. HGF expression is rapidly up-regulated in the remnant kidney of nephrectomized rats, inducing compensatory growth. In a mouse model of chronic renal disease, HGF inhibits the progression of tubulointerstitial fibrosis and kidney dysfunction. Increased HGF mRNA transcripts were detected in mesenchymal and tubular epithelial cells of rejecting kidney. In transplanted patients, elevated HGF levels may indicate renal rejection. When HGF is considered as a therapeutic agent in human medicine, for example, to stimulate kidney regeneration after acute injury, strategies need to be developed to stimulate cell regeneration and differentiation without an induction of tumorigenesis.