Neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) regulates developmental neuronal survival and synaptogenesis, astrocytic differentiation, and microglial activation. Given these NRG-1 actions, we hypothesized that the synaptic loss, gliosis, inflammation, and neuronal death occurring in Alzheimer disease (AD) is associated with altered expression of NRG-1 and its receptors (the erbB2, erbB3, and erbB4 membrane tyrosine kinases). We examined the expression and distribution of NRG-1 and the erbB kinases in the hippocampus of AD patients and cognitively normal controls and in transgenic mice that coexpress AD-associated mutations of the β amyloid precursor protein (APPK670N,M671L) and presenilin-I (PSIM146L). In the hippocampi of both control humans and wild type mice, NRG-1 and the 3 erbB receptors are expressed in distinct cellular compartments of hippocampal neurons. All 4 molecules are associated with neuronal cell bodies, but only NRG-1, erbB2, and erbB4 are present in synapse-rich regions. In AD and in the doubly transgenic mouse, erbB4 is expressed by reactive astrocytes and microglia surrounding neuritic plaques. In AD brains, microglia and, to a lesser extent, dystrophic neurites, also upregulate NRG-1 in neuritic plaques, suggesting that autocrine and/or paracrine interactions regulate NRG-1 action within these lesions. NRG-1 and erbB4, as well as erbB2, are similarly associated with neuritic plaques in the doubly transgenic mice. Thus, in AD the hippocampal distribution of NRG-1 and erbB4 is altered. The similarities between the alterations in the expression of NRG-1 and its receptors in human AD and in APPK670N;M671L/PSIM146L mutant mice suggests that this animal model may be very informative in deciphering the potential role of these molecules in AD.