The effects of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) on intracellular Ca2+ mobilization were studied using fura-2-loaded single rat hepatocytes. Hepatocytes microperfused with different amounts of HGF responded with a rapid concentration-dependent rise in the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration with a maximum increase of 142% at 80 ng/ml of HGF. The lag period of the Ca2+ response was decreased with increasing HGF concentrations, being 64 ± 12 s, 42 ± 6 s, and 14 ± 2 s, respectively, with 8, 20, and 80 ng/ml of HGF. The detailed pattern of Ca2+ transients, however, was variable. Out of 16 cells tested using 20 ng/ml of HGF, 68% showed sustained oscillatory responses, whereas other cells showed a sustained increase in the cytosolic-free Ca2+ upon exposure to HGF, which was dependent on the presence of extracellular Ca2+. HGF also induced Ca2+ entry across the plasma membrane. Mobilization of Ca2+ by HGF was accompanied by a rapid accumulation of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (Ins 1,4,5-P3). The effects of HGF and epidermal growth factor (EGF) were comparable and partly additive for Ins 1,4,5-P3 production and for the sustained phase of Ca2+ mobilization. Preincubation of cells with 10 μM of genistein to inhibit protein tyrosine kinases abolished the HGF-induced Ca2+ response and also inhibited HGF-induced Ins 1,4,5-P3 production in rat liver cells. These data indicate that early events in the signal transduction pathways mediated by HGF and EGF have in common the requirements for tyrosine kinase activity, Ins 1,4,5-P3 production, and Ca2+ mobilization. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.