The epidermal growth factor receptor: from development to tumorigenesis

Differentiation. 2007 Nov;75(9):770-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-0436.2007.00238.x.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is activated by many ligands and belongs to a family of tyrosine kinase receptors, including ErbB2, ErbB3, and ErbB4. These receptors are de-regulated in many human tumors, and EGFR amplification, overexpression, and mutations are detected at a high frequency in carcinomas and glioblastomas, which are tumors of epithelial and glial origin, respectively. From the analysis of EGFR-deficient mice, it seems that the cell types mostly affected by the absence of EGFR are epithelial and glial cells, the same cell types where the EGFR is found to be overexpressed in human tumors. Therefore, it is important to define molecularly the function of EGFR signaling in the development of these cell types, because this knowledge will be of fundamental importance to understand how aberrant EGFR signaling can lead to tumor formation and progression. A molecular understanding of the pathways that control the development of a given tissue or cell type will also provide the basis for developing better combination therapies targeting different key components of the EGFR signaling network in the respective cancerous cells. Here, we will review the current knowledge, mostly derived from the analysis of genetically modified mice and cells, about the function of the EGFR in specific organs and tissues and in sites where the EGFR is found to be overexpressed in human tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Organogenesis / genetics*


  • ErbB Receptors