Exp Cell Res 2007 Aug 18;313(13):2896-909. Epub 2007 Apr 18.
Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Medicity Research Laboratories, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Suppression of tumor growth by inhibition of ErbB receptor signaling is well documented. However, relatively little is known about the ErbB signaling system in the regulation of angiogenesis, a process necessary for tumor growth. We have previously shown that heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is expressed by vascular endothelial cells (EC) and promotes endothelial recruitment of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC). To assess whether other members of the EGF-family regulate angiogenesis, the expression of 10 EGF-like growth factors in primary ECs and SMCs was analyzed. In addition to HB-EGF, neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) was expressed in ECs in vitro and in vivo. Endothelial NRG-1 was constitutively processed to soluble extracellular and intracellular signaling fragments, and its expression was induced by hypoxia. NRG-1 was angiogenic in vivo in mouse corneal pocket and chicken chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assays. However, consistent with the lack of NRG-1 receptors in several primary EC lines, NRG-1 did not directly stimulate cellular responses in cultured ECs. In contrast, NRG-1 promoted EC responses in vitro and angiogenesis in CAM in vivo by mechanisms dependent on VEGF-A and VEGFR-2. These results indicate that NRG-1 is expressed by ECs and regulates angiogenesis by mechanisms involving paracrine up-regulation of VEGF-A.