Roles of EGF Family of Growth Factors in Growth: Overview of Their Roles in Postnatal Growth and Development



Ligands of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R), known to be important for supporting embryonic tissue development particularly in the gut and brain, have also been implicated in regulating postnatal somatic growth. While optimal levels of both milk-borne and endogenous EGF-R ligands are important for supporting postnatal somatic growth through regulating gastrointestinal growth and maturation, supra-physiological levels of EGF-R ligands can cause retarded and disproportionate growth and alter body composition as they increase growth of epithelial tissues but decrease masses of muscle, fat, and bone. EGF-R ligands can exert influence on growth indirectly via regulating levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) and its binding proteins (IGFBPs); EGF-R ligands can also directly regulate bone growth and modeling, as they can enhance proliferation but suppress maturation of growth plate chondrocytes (for building a calcified cartilage scaffold for bone deposition) and osteoblasts (for depositing bone matrix), and promote formation and function of osteoclasts (for resorption of calcified cartilage or bone). In addition, EGF-R ligands, in particular amphiregulin, can themselves be regulated by parathyroid hormone (PTH), an important regulatory factor in bone modeling and remodeling. Finally, EGF-R ligands can regulate bone homeostasis by regulating pool of progenitor cells in the bone marrow through promoting their proliferation but suppressing differentiation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells.


EGF family EGF-R or ErbB receptors Somatic growth Body composition IGF-I IGFBP Bone growth Growth plate Osteoblasts Osteoclasts Bone resorption Mesenchymal stem cells 





Bone morphogenic proteins




Colony-forming unit fibroblasts




Epidermal growth factor


Epidermal growth factor receptor


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase


Fibroblast growth factor


Growth hormone


Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor


Insulin-like growth factor


Insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins


Mitogen-activated protein


Mitogen-activated protein kinase


Macrophage colony-stimulating factor


Matrix metalloproteases


Mesenchymal stem cells


Nuclear factor




Parathyroid hormone


Parathyroid hormone-related peptide


Receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB


Receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand


Transforming growth factor-alpha


Tumor necrosis factor-alpha



Work from the author’s lab was supported in part by the Bone Growth Foundation (Australia) and project grants and fellowship from the Australia National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Pharmacy and Medical SciencesSansom Institute for Health Research, University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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