• Amniotic fluid;
  • colostrum;
  • cytokine;
  • gastrointestinal;
  • oviductal fluid;
  • seminal plasma

Srivastava MD, Lippes J, Sahai Srivastava BI. Hepatocyte growth factor in human milk and reproductive tract fluids. AJRI 1999; 42:347–354 © Munksgaard, Copenhagen

PROBLEM: Despite evidence indicating a role for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in gastrointestinal and reproductive physiology, the concentration and distribution of HGF in human breast milk (BM) and reproductive tract fluids remain unknown.

METHOD OF STUDY: Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the HGF concentrations were determined in human oviductal fluid (hOF), follicular fluid (FF), amniotic fluid (AF), seminal plasma (SP), and colostrum/milk samples, and expression of HGF mRNA by milk cells and AF cells were examined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

RESULTS: HGF is present at nearly 70-fold normal serum (0.85 ± 0.15 ng/mL) concentration in FF (n = 3; x = 57 ± 16 ng/mL) and AF (n = 17; x = 57 ± 26 ng/mL), and is also present in hOF (n = 3; x = 4.8 ± 2.3 ng/mL) and CVL (n = 8; x = 0.7 ± 1.1 ng/mL) varying throughout the menstrual cycle. HGF is found at 3-times serum concentration in BM (n = 24; x = 2.3 ±1.3 ng/mL) with no significant difference between premature and full term or stage of lactation (colostrum, transitional, mature milk). HGF mRNA was detected in BM cells but not in AF cells.

CONCLUSIONS: HGF is present in sufficient amounts to profoundly affect gastrointestinal maturation in the fetus via swallowed AF and neonate via BM, and helps to explain the increased rate of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in infants of premature rupture of membrane (PROM)-complicated pregnancies, and the decreased rate in breast fed neonates. HGF in FF may be necessary for the development and maturation of the oocyte. HGF in hOF, SP, and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) is likely to enhances epithelial cell integrity and the mucosal barrier. Thus, HGF is widely available in the reproductive tract with functions that remain to be fully elucidated.