Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) controls a genetic program known as 'invasive growth', which involves as critical steps cell adhesion, migration, and trespassing of basement membranes. We show here that in MDA-MB-231 carcinoma cells, these steps are elicited by HGF/SF but not by epidermal growth factor (EGF). Neither factor substantially alters the production or activity of extracellular matrix proteases. HGF/SF, but not EGF, selectively promotes cell adhesion on laminins 1 and 5, fibronectin, and vitronectin through a PI3-K-dependent mechanism. Increased adhesion is followed by enhanced invasiveness through isolated matrix proteins as well as through reconstituted basement membranes. Inhibition assays using function-blocking antibodies show that this phenomenon is mediated by multiple integrins including beta1, beta3, beta4, and beta5. HGF/SF triggers clustering of all these integrins at actin-rich adhesive sites and lamellipodia but does not quantitatively modify their membrane expression. These data suggest that HGF/SF promotes cell adhesion and invasiveness by increasing the avidity of integrins for their specific ligands.
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