Serum Neuregulin-1β as a Biomarker of Cardiovascular Fitness

Vaibhav Moondra#, 1, Satyam Sarma, 1, Tracy Buxton2, Radwan Safa2, 3, Gregory Cote$, 2, Thomas Storer2, Nathan K LeBrasseur2, Douglas B Sawyer*, 2, 3
1 Boston Medical Center, Boston MA, 02115, USA
2 Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02115, USA
3 Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA

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Creative Commons License
© 2009 Moondra et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the 383 Preston Research Building, 2220 Pierce Ave., Nashville, TN, 37232-6300, USA; Tel: 615-936- 1873; Fax: 615-936-1872; E-mail:
# Current address: Section of Cardiology, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756, USA.
Current address: Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
$ Current address: Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.



Neuregulins (NRG) are growth factors that bind to receptors of the erbB family, and are known to mediate a number of processes involved in diverse tissues. Neuregulin-1β is expressed in skeletal muscle and is activated by exercise. We hypothesized that NRG-1β might circulate in the bloodstream and increase as a consequence of physical activity. A study was conducted in healthy subjects to determine if NRG-1β is immunodetectable in human serum, and if so whether levels relate acutely or chronically to exercise.


Nine healthy men underwent three bouts of exercise of varying degrees of intensity on a bicycle ergometer over a period of three weeks. Cardio-respiratory fitness was determined by measurement of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). Serum was sampled prior to and immediately after each session (up to 30 minutes post) and serum NRG-1ß was quantified utilizing an indirect sandwich ELISA assay developed in our lab.


Across subjects, mean serum NRG-1β levels ranged from 32 ng/mL to 473 ng/mL. Individual subjects showed relatively stable levels during the study period that did not change acutely after exercise. Serum NRG-1β demonstrated a positive correlation with VO2max (r2=0.49, p =.044).


These preliminary observations suggest that at least in healthy men, serum NRG-1β is an indicator of cardio- respiratory fitness and does not change acutely with exercise.

Keywords: Growth factor, exercise, heregulin, cardiopulmonary fitness.