The erbB family of receptors includes four members, whose prototype is the epidermal growth factor receptor. In contrast to the EGF receptor, the physiological roles of other members of the family are not clear. However, the erbB2 receptor, whose mutation induces neoplastic transformation, may act as a co-receptor in the signalling of other erbB members. Specifically, deletion of the erbB2 allele in transgenic mice leads to embryonal death at E10.5, resulting from major defects in development of the heart and peripheral nervous system.
In order to establish the basis of erbB2 function, especially its role in later development, a twin strategy employing conditional gene ablation and cell lineage analysis is proposed. This will enable the elucidation of the functions of erbB2 in the development and maintenance of the peripheral nervous system, of epithelia, and in oncogenesis. Additional experiments will focus on the biochemical characterisation of this important receptor.