Sporadic and neurofibromatosis type 2-associated schwannomas contain a glial growth factor (GGF)-like activity that has been hypothesized to promote neoplastic Schwann cell mitogenesis. It is not known whether this GGF-like activity is neuregulin-1 (NRG-1), an epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related molecule that regulates the proliferation, survival, and differentiation of developing Schwann cells, the related factor NRG-2, or another NRG/EGF ligand. We report that neoplastic Schwann cells within schwannomas overexpress multiple alpha and beta transmembrane precursors from the class II and class III NRG-1 subfamilies. NRG-2 alpha and beta transcripts are similarly overexpressed in some tumors. Of the other 8 known NRG/EGF ligands, only heparin-binding EGF, epiregulin, and TGFalpha are detectable in schwannomas. Neoplastic Schwann cells almost uniformly express erbB2 and erbB3, 2 membrane receptor tyrosine kinases mediating NRG-1 and NRG-2 action. Expression of the NRG receptor erbB4 and EGF receptor is also evident in schwannomas, but is more limited, occurring in only a subset of these tumors. ErbB2, the preferred dimerization partner for all erbB kinases, is constitutively phosphorylated in schwannomas. These observations suggest that autocrine, paracrine, and/or juxtacrine NRG-1/NRG-2 signaling promotes schwannoma pathogenesis and that this signaling pathway may be an important therapeutic target in schwannomas.