Expression of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor, c-met is up-regulated in various forms of liver injury. This study evaluated the relationship between HGF and c-met expression and pathological changes in experimental alcoholic liver disease. Rats (5 per group) were fed ethanol and a diet containing saturated fat corn oil or fish oil by intragastric infusion. Dextrose isocalorically replaced ethanol in controls. In a second set of experiments, Kupffer cells, endothelial cells and hepatocytes were isolated from rats in each group. Pathological evaluation and analysis of HGF and c-met expression were performed in liver and the different cell types. Increased expression of HGF and c-met expression was detected in the liver of rats showing necroinflammatory changes. The Kupffer and endothelial cells were primarily responsible for the increase in HGF, c-met expression was seen only in hepatocytes. Thus, up-regulation of HGF and c-met occurred in the presence of the necrosis and inflammation suggesting that HGF may be acting to protect against liver injury or accelerate the regenerative process.