The epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related peptides bind the ErbB receptors, inducing the formation of different homo- and heterodimers. Receptor dimerization promotes activation of the intrinsic kinase, leading to phosphorylation of specific tyrosines located in the ErbB's cytoplasmic region. These phosphorylated residues serve as docking sites for a variety of signaling molecules whose recruitment stimulates intracellular signaling cascades, which ultimately control diverse genetic programs. Particular ligand-receptor complexes have essential roles in embryonic development as well as in the adult. Finally, ErbB receptors are being pursued as therapeutic targets because aberrant ErbB activity has been observed in many human cancers. In this review, we discuss these data in more detail, illustrating the importance of tightly regulated ErbB signaling throughout life.