The epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) is one of four homologous transmembrane proteins that mediate the actions of a family of growth factors including EGF, transforming growth factor-a, and the neuregulins. We review the structure and function of the EGFR, from ligand binding to the initiation of intracellular signalling pathways that lead to changes in the biochemical state of the cell. The recent crystal structures of different domains from several members of the EGFR family have challenged our concepts of these processes. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.