Interaction of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) with its receptor, the Met tyrosine kinase, results in invasive growth, a genetic program essential to embryonic development and implicated in tumor metastasis. Met-mediated invasive growth requires autophosphorylation of the receptor on tyrosines located in the kinase activation loop (Tyr(1234)-Tyr(1235)) and in the carboxyl-terminal tail (Tyr(1349)-Tyr(1356)). We report that peptides derived from the Met receptor tail, but not from the activation loop, bind the receptor and inhibit the kinase activity in vitro. Cell delivery of the tail receptor peptide impairs HGF-dependent Met phosphorylation and downstream signaling. In normal and transformed epithelial cells, the tail receptor peptide inhibits HGF-mediated invasive growth, as measured by cell migration, invasiveness, and branched morphogenesis. The Met tail peptide inhibits the closely related Ron receptor but does not significantly affect the epidermal growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor, or vascular endothelial growth factor receptor activities. These experiments show that carboxyl-terminal sequences impair the catalytic properties of the Met receptor, thus suggesting that in the resting state the nonphosphorylated tail acts as an intramolecular modulator. Furthermore, they provide a strategy to selectively target the MET proto-oncogene by using small, cell-permeable, peptide derivatives.
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