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Oncogene. 1998 Sep 17;17(11 Reviews):1415-38.

Rho family proteins and Ras transformation: the RHOad less traveled gets congested.

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Department of Pharmacology, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The Rho family of small GTPases has attracted considerable research interest over the past 5 years. During this time, we have witnessed a remarkable increase in our knowledge of the biochemistry and biology of these Ras-related proteins. Thus, Rho family proteins have begun to rival, if not overshadow, interest in their more celebrated cousins, the Ras oncogene proteins. The fascination in Rho family proteins is fueled primarily by two major observations. First, like Ras, Rho family proteins serve as guanine nucleotide-regulated binary switches that control signaling pathways that in turn regulate diverse cellular processes. Rho family proteins are key components in cellular processes that control the organization of the actin cytoskeleton, activate kinase cascades, regulate gene expression, regulate membrane trafficking, promote growth transformation and induce apoptosis. Second, at least five Rho family proteins have been implicated as critical regulators of oncogenic Ras transformation. Thus, it is suspected that Rho family proteins contribute significantly to the aberrant growth properties of Ras-transformed cells. Rho family proteins are also critical mediators of the transforming actions of other transforming proteins and include Dbl family oncogene proteins, G protein-coupled receptors and G protein alpha subunits. Thus, Rho family proteins may be key components for the transforming actions of diverse oncogene proteins. Major aims of Rho family protein studies are to define the molecular mechanism by which Rho family proteins regulate such a diverse spectrum of cellular behavior. These efforts may reveal novel targets for the development of anti-Ras and anti-cancer drugs.

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