gamma-heregulin is a recently described novel isoform of the heregulin/neuregulin class of EGF-like ligands that bind to and activate receptors of the ErbB family. Deregulated signaling through the heregulin-ErbB pathway is thought to be implicated in the development of a subset of human breast cancers. gamma-heregulin has been found to be expressed in the culture supernatant of MDA-MB-175, a breast carcinoma cell line. gamma-heregulin is characterized by the presence of a large N-terminal peptide extension that is not found in other heregulin isoforms. Here we report that this unique N-terminal extension of gamma-heregulin is identical to the N-terminus of DOC4, a product of a recently identified CHOP-dependent stress-induced gene. Human DOC4 and the heregulin-encoding genes map to different chromosomes and the MDA-MB-175 cell line contains a chromosomal translocation that leads to the fusion of DOC4 and HGL, on chromosomes 11 and 8, respectively. Thus, gamma-heregulin is a product of a mutant fusion gene and not a bona fide normal isoform. We speculate that the mutation may be selected for by virtue of its ability to activate ErbB signaling through the production of an autocrine ligand.