Hepatocyte growth factor activator: A possible regulator of morphogenesis during fetal development of the rat gastrointestinal tract

Y. Matsubara, M. Ichinose, N. Yahagi, S. Tsukada, M. Oka, K. Miki, S. Kimura, M. Omata, K. Shiokawa, N. Kitamura, Y. Kaneko, H. Fukamachi

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44 Citations (Scopus)


The role played by the hepatocyte growth factor activator (HGFA) during morphogenesis of the gastrointestinal tract was investigated in fetal rats between days 16 and 21 of gestation. By our recently established method using chelation and dissecting microscope, samples could be separated into epithelium and mesenchyme, essentially without cross-contamination. The expression of the gene for HGFA together with those for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor, c-met, was investigated in each tissue element by RT-PCR. In the fetal rat gastrointestinal tract, mRNA signals for the HGFA gene were observed only in epithelia expressing c-met mRNA. In contrast, expression of HGF mRNA was limited to the mesenchymal elements, indicating the presence of a local HGF system in the gastrointestinal tract; an inactive form of HGF (proHGF) is secreted from the mesenchyme and then cleaved into the active form by HGFA secreted by the target epithelia. During the period of morphogenesis and histodifferentiation in the gastrointestinal tract, enhanced expression of the genes for HGF and its receptor/c-met was evident, with elevated HGFA mRNA level observed throughout the gastrointestinal tract except in the forestomach, where mRNA expression was barely detectable. These results strongly suggest the possibility that morphogenesis of the gastrointestinal tract is regulated not only by a local increase in production of HGF, but also by enhanced proteolytic activation of proHGF. Thus, it is probable that locally synthesized HGFA plays a significant role as a regulator of the morphogenic action of HGF during gastrointestinal tract development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-484
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998 Dec 18
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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