Neuregulins promote survival and growth of cardiac myocytes. Persistence of ErbB2 and ErbB4 expression in neonatal and adult ventricular myocytes.
Neuregulins (i.e. neuregulin-1 (NRG1), also called neu differentiation factor, heregulin, glial growth factor, and acetylcholine receptor-inducing activity) are known to induce growth and differentiation of epithelial, glial, neuronal, and skeletal muscle cells. Unexpectedly, mice with loss of function mutations of NRG1 or of either of two of their cognate receptors, ErbB2 and ErbB4, die during midembryogenesis due to the aborted development of myocardial trabeculae in ventricular muscle. To examine the role of NRG and their receptors in developing and postnatal myocardium, we studied the ability of a soluble NRG1 (recombinant human glial growth factor 2) to promote proliferation, survival, and growth of isolated neonatal and adult rat cardiac myocytes. Both ErbB2 and ErbB4 receptors were found to be expressed by neonatal and adult ventricular myocytes and activated by rhGGF2. rhGGF2 (30 ng/ml) provoked an approximate 2-fold increase in embryonic cardiac myocyte proliferation. rhGGF2 also promoted survival and inhibited apoptosis of subconfluent, serum-deprived myocyte primary cultures and also induced hypertrophic growth in both neonatal and adult ventricular myocytes, which was accompanied by enhanced expression of prepro-atrial natriuretic factor and skeletal alpha-actin. Moreover, NRG1 mRNA could be detected in coronary microvascular endothelial cell primary cultures prepared from adult rat ventricular muscle. NRG1 expression in these cells was increased by endothelin-1, another locally acting cardiotropic peptide within the heart. The persistent expression of both a neuregulin and its cognate receptors in the postnatal and adult heart suggests a continuing role for neuregulins in the myocardial adaption to physiologic stress or injury.