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Cell. 2009 Jul 23;138(2):257-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.04.060.

Neuregulin1/ErbB4 signaling induces cardiomyocyte proliferation and repair of heart injury.

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Department of Cardiology, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Many organs rely on undifferentiated stem and progenitor cells for tissue regeneration. Whether differentiated cells themselves can contribute to cell replacement and tissue regeneration is a controversial question. Here, we show that differentiated heart muscle cells, cardiomyocytes, can be induced to proliferate and regenerate. We identify an underlying molecular mechanism for controlling this process that involves the growth factor neuregulin1 (NRG1) and its tyrosine kinase receptor, ErbB4. NRG1 induces mononucleated, but not binucleated, cardiomyocytes to divide. In vivo, genetic inactivation of ErbB4 reduces cardiomyocyte proliferation, whereas increasing ErbB4 expression enhances it. Injecting NRG1 in adult mice induces cardiomyocyte cell-cycle activity and promotes myocardial regeneration, leading to improved function after myocardial infarction. Undifferentiated progenitor cells did not contribute to NRG1-induced cardiomyocyte proliferation. Thus, increasing the activity of the NRG1/ErbB4 signaling pathway may provide a molecular strategy to promote myocardial regeneration.

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