Heregulins bind directly to ErbB3 and ErbB4 receptors, leading to multiple dimerization possibilities including heterodimerization with the ErbB2 receptor. We have generated ErbB3-, ErbB2- and heregulin-deficient mice to assess their roles in development and differentiation. Heregulin(−/−) and ErbB2(−/−) embryos died on E10.5 due to a lack of cardiac ventricular myocyte differentiation; ErbB3(−/−) embryos survived until E13.5 exhibiting cardiac cushion abnormalities leading to blood reflux through defective valves. In ErbB3(−/−) embryos, the midbrain/hindbrain region was strikingly affected, with little differentiation of the cerebellar plate. Cranial ganglia defects, while present in all three nulls, were less severe in ErbB3(−/−) embryos. The cranial ganglia defects, along with a dramatic reduction in Schwann cells, enteric ganglia and adrenal chromaffin cells, suggests a generalized effect on the neural crest. Numerous organs, including the stomach and pancreas also exhibited anomalous development.

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