Axonal neuregulin signals cells of the oligodendrocyte lineage through activation of HER4 and Schwann cells through HER2 and HER3

J Cell Biol. 1997 Apr 7;137(1):211-20. doi: 10.1083/jcb.137.1.211.


We are interested in the signaling between axons and glia that leads to myelination and maintenance of the myelin internode, and we have focused on the role of neuregulins and their receptors. Neuregulins are a family of ligands that includes heregulin, neu differentiation factor, glial growth factor, and the acetylcholine receptor-inducing activity. Three signal transducing transmembrane receptors for neuregulins, which bear significant homology to the EGF receptor, are currently known: HER2 (erbB2), HER3 (erbB3), and HER4 (erbB4). We have found that oligodendrocite-type II astrocyte (O2A) progenitor cells and mature oligodendrocytes express HER2 and HER4 but no HER3. Schwann cells express HER2 and HER3 but little HER4. In O2A progenitor cells and oligodendrocytes, recombinant neuregulin induces the rapid tyrosine phosphorylation of only HER4. HER2 is not phosphorylated in cells of the oligodendrocyte lineage, but a physical interaction between HER2 and HER4 was detected in coimmunoprecipitation experiments. In Schwann cells, neuregulin induces the phosphorylation of both HER2 and HER3. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments indicate that receptor activation in Schwann cells results in the formation of HER2:HER3 heterodimers. Neuregulin localized immunocytochemically was present on neurites of cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons, and it was released into the medium in a form that promoted receptor tyrosine phosphorylation. Neuregulins therefore meet important criteria expected of molecules involved in axonal-glial signaling. The use of unique neuregulin receptor combinations in oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells likely results in recruitment of different signaling pathways and thus provides a basis for different biological responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Astrocytes / chemistry
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Cell Lineage / physiology
  • ErbB Receptors / agonists
  • ErbB Receptors / biosynthesis
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Glycoproteins / pharmacology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / chemistry
  • Neuregulins
  • Neurons, Afferent / chemistry
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Oligodendroglia / chemistry
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / agonists
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / agonists
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-3
  • Receptor, ErbB-4
  • Schwann Cells / chemistry
  • Schwann Cells / drug effects
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*
  • Sciatic Nerve / cytology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / chemistry
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Glycoproteins
  • Neuregulins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tyrosine
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Erbb4 protein, rat
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptor, ErbB-3
  • Receptor, ErbB-4