Small monomeric GTPase
EC no.
IntEnzIntEnz view
ExPASyNiceZyme view
MetaCycmetabolic pathway
PDB structuresRCSB PDB PDBe PDBsum

Small GTPases (EC, also known as small G-proteins, are a family of hydrolase enzymes that can bind and hydrolyze guanosine triphosphate (GTP). They are a type of G-protein found in the cytosol that are homologous to the alpha subunit of heterotrimeric G-proteins, but unlike the alpha subunit of G proteins, a small GTPase can function independently as a hydrolase enzyme to bind to and hydrolyze a guanosine triphosphate (GTP) to form guanosine diphosphate (GDP). The best-known members are the Ras GTPases and hence they are sometimes called Ras subfamily GTPases.

A typical G-protein is active when bound to GTP and inactive when bound to GDP (i.e. when the GTP is hydrolyzed to GDP). The GDP can be then replaced by free GTP. Therefore, a G-protein can be switched on and off. GTP hydrolysis is accelerated by GTPase activating proteins (GAPs), while GTP exchange is catalyzed by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Activation of a GEF typically activates its cognate G-protein, while activation of a GAP results in inactivation of the cognate G-protein. Guanosine nucleotide dissociation inhibitors (GDI) maintain small GTPases in the inactive state.

Small GTPases regulate a wide variety of processes in the cell, including growth, cellular differentiation, cell movement and lipid vesicle transport.

The Ras superfamily

Main article: Ras superfamily

There are more than a hundred proteins in the Ras superfamily.[1] Based on structure, sequence and function, the Ras superfamily is divided into five main families, (Ras, Rho, Ran, Rab and Arf GTPases).[2] The Ras family itself is further divided into 6 subfamilies: Ras, Ral, Rit, Rap, Rheb, and Rad. Miro is a recent contributor to the superfamily.[citation needed]

Each subfamily shares the common core G domain, which provides essential GTPase and nucleotide exchange activity.[citation needed]

The surrounding sequence helps determine the functional specificity of the small GTPase, for example the 'Insert Loop', common to the Rho subfamily, specifically contributes to binding to effector proteins such as IQGAP and WASP.[citation needed]

The Ras family is generally responsible for cell proliferation, Rho for cell morphology, Ran for nuclear transport and Rab and Arf for vesicle transport.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Wennerberg K, Rossman KL, Der CJ (March 2005). "The Ras superfamily at a glance". J. Cell Sci. 118 (Pt 5): 843–6. doi:10.1242/jcs.01660. PMID 15731001.
  2. ^ Goitre, L; Trapani, E; Trabalzini, L; Retta, SF (26 December 2013). The Ras superfamily of small GTPases: the unlocked secrets. Methods in Molecular Biology. Vol. 1120. pp. 1–18. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-791-4_1. ISBN 978-1-62703-790-7. PMID 24470015.
  3. ^ Munemitsu S, Innis M, Clark R, McCormick F, Ullrich A, Polakis P (1990). "Molecular cloning and expression of a G25K cDNA, the human homolog of the yeast cell cycle gene CDC42". Mol Cell Biol. 10 (11): 5977–82. doi:10.1128/MCB.10.11.5977. ISSN 0270-7306. PMC 361395. PMID 2122236.