ErbB Tyrosine Kinases And The Two Neuregulin Families Constitute A Ligand-Receptor Network
The recently isolated second family of neuregulins, NRG2, shares its primary receptors, ErbB-3 and ErbB-4, and induction of mammary cell differentiation with NRG1 isoforms, suggesting functional redundancy of the two growth factor families. To address this possibility, we analyzed receptor specificity of NRGs by using an engineered cellular system. The activity of isoform-specific but partly overlapping patterns of specificities that collectively activate all eight ligand-stimulatable ErbB dimers was revealed. Specifically, NRG2-β, like NRG1-α, emerges as a narrow-specificity ligand, whereas NRG2-α is a pan-ErbB ligand that binds with different affinities to all receptor combinations, including those containing ErbB-1, but excluding homodimers of ErbB-2. The latter protein, however, displayed cooperativity with the direct NRG receptors. Apparently, signaling by all NRGs is funneled through the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). However, the duration and potency of MAPK activation depend on the identity of the stimulatory ligand-receptor ternary complex. We conclude that the NRG-ErbB network represents a complex and nonredundant machinery developed for fine-tuning of signal transduction.