2013 Volume 133 Issue 11 Pages 1159-1167
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) was first identified and cloned as a mitogenic protein for hepatocytes, and subsequent studies revealed that HGF has multiple biological effects on a wide variety of cells, including mitogenic, motogenic, morphogenic, anti-apoptotic, and angiogenic activities. It plays roles in organizing tissues during development and regeneration. HGF may be applied for the treatment of acute onset diseases such as fulminant hepatitis, myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, cerebral infarction, and chronic diseases like liver cirrhosis, chronic renal failure, pulmonary fibrosis, cardiomyopathy, and arteriosclerosis obliterans. HGF also has immunomodulatory activities and we previously demonstrated that its administration inhibited acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after treatment with hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. We also demonstrated that HGF inhibited lupus nephritis induced by chronic GVHD and dermal sclerosis in systemic sclerosis using model mice. More than 7 hundred thousand patients suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Japan. Although the prognosis of these patients has improved by the treatment of biological agents such as TNF-α and IL-6 blockers, there remain many for whom these agents have not proved beneficial. Recently, using RA model mice, we demonstrated that the HGF antagonist, NK4, can block disease progression of RA through its anti-angiogenic and immunomodulatory actions. In this review article, we discuss the possible roles of HGF signaling for the treatment of immunological reactions in transplantation and autoimmune diseases.