The proangiogenic activity of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/scatter factor has been closely associated with its ability to stimulate endothelial cell chemotaxis, migration, proliferation, and capillary formation. However, the potential of HGF as a paracrine factor in regulating the expression of angiogenesis factors by tumor cells is not widely appreciated. We observed that increased HGF was correlated with higher levels of angiogenesis factors interleukin (IL)-8 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in serum of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) as compared with that in normal volunteers and hypothesized that HGF may regulate angiogenesis factor production by tumor cells through the activation of its receptor c-Met, which is expressed by HNSCC cells. To test this hypothesis, we examined the effect of HGF treatment on IL-8 and VEGF expression by a panel of primary keratinocytes and HNSCC lines. HGF induced a significant dose-dependent increase in IL-8 and/or VEGF cytokine production in eight HNSCC lines tested, which is not observed in normal keratinocytes. In addition, HGF increased mRNA expression of IL-8 in 3 of 6 and VEGF in 5 of 6 HNSCC lines. The increase in induction of these factors by HGF corresponded to an increase in phosphorylation of c-Met in HNSCC. HGF-induced phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK) pathway substrate p42/p44(erk) and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K) pathway substrate Akt provided evidence for downstream activation of MEK and PI3K pathways in HNSCC. Inhibitors of MEK (U0126) and PI3K (LY294002) blocked p42/p44(erk) and Akt, respectively, and partially blocked HGF-induced production of IL-8 and VEGF, whereas the combination of U0126 and LY294002 completely inhibited expression of IL-8 and VEGF by UMSCC-11A. Our results demonstrate that HGF can promote expression of angiogenesis factors in tumor cells through both MEK- and PI3K-dependent pathways. Understanding HGF/Met paracrine regulatory mechanisms between tumor and host cells may provide critical information for targeting of therapies against angiogenesis.