Since the discovery that epidermal growth factor (EGF) can accelerate opening of the eyelids, the EGF receptor (EGF-R) has been extensively studied and is now considered to be a prototype tyrosine kinase receptor. Binding of EGF or of transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) or other related factors activates the receptor and induces cell proliferation and differentiation. Although it is not found on haematopoietic cells, the EGF-R is widely expressed in mammals and has been implicated in various stages of embryonic development. Here we investigate the developmental and physiological roles of this receptor and its ligands by inactivating the gene encoding EGF-R. We find that EGF-R-/- mice survive for up to 8 days after birth and suffer from impaired epithelial development in several organs, including skin, lung and gastrointestinal tract.
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