The neuregulins (NRGs) are a family of four structurally related growth factors that are expressed in the developing and adult brain. NRG-1 is essential for normal heart formation and has been implicated in the development and maintenance of both neurons and glia. NRG-2 was identified on the basis of its homology to NRG-1 and, like NRG-1, is expressed predominantly by neurons in the central nervous system. We have generated mice with the active domain of NRG-2 deleted in an effort to characterize the biological function of NRG-2 in vivo. In contrast to the NRG-1 knockout animals, NRG-2 knockouts have no apparent heart defects and survive embryogenesis. Mutant mice display early growth retardation and reduced reproductive capacity. No obvious histological differences were observed in the major sites of NRG-2 expression. Our results indicate that in vivo NRG-2 activity differs substantially from that of NRG-1 and that it is not essential for normal development in utero.