Abstract Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is normally expressed by mesenchymal cells while its receptor, c-Met, is expressed in epithelial cells. Since HGF is critically involved in epithelial-mesenchyme interactions and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is present at the interface between the retina and choroid, this study was initiated to determine whether the RPE expresses or responds to HGF in vitro.Cultured adult and fetal human RPE expressed mRNA for HGF and c-Met by RT-PCR. ELISA assay demonstrated the secretion of HGF into RPE culture supernatants. Tyrosine phosphorylation of c-Met was constitutively found in 72 hour RPE cultures and could be rapidly induced in serum-starved cells by concentrated RPE supernatants. HGF was mitogenic for cultured RPE (100 ng/ml.) and stimulated their chemotaxis (maximal response at 50 ng/ml). RPE are one of only a very limited number of epithelia that express both HGF and its receptor, suggesting the possibility of an autocrine action for this growth factor.