Human hepatocyte growth factor (hHGF) has recently been expressed as a recombinant polypeptide from Chinese hampster ovary cell transfectants. Using a primary rat hepatocyte bioassay, we have tested the biological activity of recombinant hHGF and compared it with native hHGF. Dose-response curves were almost identical, with half-maximal stimulation of DNA synthesis at 1-2 ng/ml (equivalent to approximately 10 pM). S-phase labeling index was similarly enhanced and numerous mitotic cells were observed. Recombinant and native hHGF also stimulated DNA synthesis and S-phase labeling index in primary adult human hepatocytes. Human cells were more responsive than rat hepatocytes, with recombinant hHGF slightly more potent than native hHGF (half-maximal stimulation 0.3 and 0.6 ng/ml, respectively). Since HGF levels rise in patients with fulminant hepatic failure and in animals after partial hepatectomy or administration of hepatotoxins, situations where liver regeneration occurs, HGF is suggested to play a key role in regulation of hepatic growth. The high potency of the factor on human hepatocytes reinforces its candidacy as a critical mitogen in human liver growth. The availability of a recombinant hHGF opens the way for in vivo experimental studies and to the possibility of using hHGF as a clinical therapeutic agent, either alone or in combination with other factors.
A J Strain, T Ismail, H Tsubouchi, N Arakaki, T Hishida, N Kitamura, Y Daikuhara, P McMaster