Neuregulins: functions, forms, and signaling strategies

Exp Cell Res. 2003 Mar 10;284(1):14-30. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4827(02)00102-7.


The neuregulins (NRGs) are cell-cell signaling proteins that are ligands for receptor tyrosine kinases of the ErbB family. The neuregulin family of genes has four members: NRG1, NRG2, NRG3, and NRG4. Relatively little is known about the biological functions of the NRG2, 3, and 4 proteins, and they are considered in this review only briefly. The NRG1 proteins play essential roles in the nervous system, heart, and breast. There is also evidence for involvement of NRG signaling in the development and function of several other organ systems, and in human disease, including the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and breast cancer. There are many NRG1 isoforms, raising the question "Why so many neuregulins?" Study of mice with targeted mutations ("knockout mice") has demonstrated that isoforms differing in their N-terminal region or in their epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like domain differ in their in vivo functions. These differences in function might arise because of differences in expression pattern or might reflect differences in intrinsic biological characteristics. While differences in expression pattern certainly contribute to the observed differences in in vivo functions, there are also marked differences in intrinsic characteristics that may tailor isoforms for specific signaling requirements, a theme that will be emphasized in this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multigene Family
  • Neuregulins / physiology*
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Neuregulins
  • Protein Isoforms