The hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a pleiotropic cytokine whose action is mediated by c-met, a glycoproteic receptor with tyrosine kinase activity which transduces its multiple biological activities including cell proliferation, motility and differentiation. During embryonic development HGF acts as a morphogenetic factor as previously demonstrated for metanephric and lung development. Recently, culturing male genital ridges, we demonstrated that HGF is able to support in vitro testicular cord formation. In the present paper we report the expression pattern of the HGF gene during embryonic testis development and the multiple roles exerted by this factor during the morphogenesis of this organ. Northern blot analysis reveals a positive signal in urogenital ridges isolated from 11.5 days post coitum (dpc) embryos and in testes isolated from 13.5 and 15.5dpc male embryos. On the contrary HGF mRNA is undetectable in ovaries isolated from 13.5 and 15.5dpc embryos. Moreover, we demonstrate that HGF is synthesized and secreted by the male gonad and is biologically active. These data indicate a male specific biological function of HGF during embryonic gonadal development. This hypothesis is supported by the in vitro demonstration that HGF acts as a migratory factor for male mesonephric cells which is a male specific event. In addition we demonstrate that during testicular development, HGF acts as a morphogenetic factor able to reorganize dissociated testicular cells which, under HGF stimulation, form a tridimensional network of cord-like structures. Finally, we demonstrate that HGF induces testicular cell proliferation in this way being responsible for the size increase of the testis. All together the data presented in this paper demonstrate that HGF is expressed during the embryonic development of the testis and clarify the multiple roles exerted by this factor during the morphogenesis of the male gonad. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Ricci, G., Catizone, A., & Galdieri, M. (2002). Pleiotropic activity of hepatocyte growth factor during embryonic mouse testis development. Mechanisms of Development, 118(1–2), 19–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0925-4773(02)00247-2