Small GTPase superfamily, Ras-type (IPR020849)

Short name: Small_GTPase_Ras-type

Overlapping homologous superfamilies

Family relationships


Small GTPases form an independent superfamily within the larger class of regulatory GTP hydrolases. This superfamily contains proteins that control a vast number of important processes and possess a common, structurally preserved GTP-binding domain [PMID: 2122258, PMID: 1898771]. Sequence comparisons of small G proteins from various species have revealed that they are conserved in primary structures at the level of 30-55% similarity [PMID: 2029511].

Crystallographic analysis of various small G proteins revealed the presence of a 20 kDa catalytic domain that is unique for the whole superfamily [PMID: 1898771, PMID: 2196171]. The domain is built of five alpha helices (A1-A5), six beta-strands (B1-B6) and five polypeptide loops (G1-G5). A structural comparison of the GTP- and GDP-bound form, allows one to distinguish two functional loop regions: switch I and switch II that surround the gamma-phosphate group of the nucleotide. The G1 loop (also called the P-loop) that connects the B1 strand and the A1 helix is responsible for the binding of the phosphate groups. The G3 loop provides residues for Mg(2+) and phosphate binding and is located at the N terminus of the A2 helix. The G1 and G3 loops are sequentially similar to Walker A and Walker B boxes that are found in other nucleotide binding motifs. The G2 loop connects the A1 helix and the B2 strand and contains a conserved Thr residue responsible for Mg(2+) binding. The guanine base is recognised by the G4 and G5 loops. The consensus sequence NKXD of the G4 loop contains Lys and Asp residues directly interacting with the nucleotide. Part of the G5 loop located between B6 and A5 acts as a recognition site for the guanine base [PMID: 11995995].

The small GTPase superfamily can be divided into at least 8 different families, including:

  • Arf small GTPases. GTP-binding proteins involved in protein trafficking by modulating vesicle budding and uncoating within the Golgi apparatus.
  • Ran small GTPases. GTP-binding proteins involved in nucleocytoplasmic transport. Required for the import of proteins into the nucleus and also for RNA export.
  • Rab small GTPases. GTP-binding proteins involved in vesicular traffic.
  • Rho small GTPases. GTP-binding proteins that control cytoskeleton reorganisation.
  • Ras small GTPases. GTP-binding proteins involved in signalling pathways.
  • Sar1 small GTPases. Small GTPase component of the coat protein complex II (COPII) which promotes the formation of transport vesicles from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
  • Mitochondrial Rho (Miro). Small GTPase domain found in mitochondrial proteins involved in mitochondrial trafficking.
  • Roc small GTPases domain. Small GTPase domain always found associated with the COR domain.

Ras proteins are small GTPases that regulate cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. The different Ras isoforms: H-ras, N-ras and K-ras, generate distinct signal outputs, despite interacting with a common set of activators and effectors. Ras is activated by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that release GDP and allow GTP binding. Many RasGEFs have been identified. These are sequestered in the cytosol until activation by growth factors triggers recruitment to the plasma membrane or Golgi, where the GEF colocalizes with Ras. Active GTP-bound Ras interacts with several effector proteins: among the best characterised are the Raf kinases, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), RalGEFs and NORE/MST1.

Ras proteins are synthesized as cytosolic precursors that undergo post-translational processing to be able to associate with cell membranes [PMID: 12728271]. First, protein farnesyl transferase, a cytosolic enzyme, attaches a farnesyl group to the cysteine residue of the CAAX motif. Second, the farnesylated CAAX sequence targets Ras to the cytosolic surface of the ER where an endopeptidase removes the AAX tripeptide. Third, the alpha-carboxyl group on the now carboxy-terminal farnesylcysteine is methylated by isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase. Finally, after methylation, Ras proteins take one of two routes to the cell surface, which is dictated by a second targeting signal that is located immediately amino-terminal to the farnesylated cysteine. N-ras and H-ras are expressed stably on the plasma membrane, on Golgi in transfected cells, and at least transiently on the ER. Ras has also been visualized on endosomes.

GO terms

Biological Process

GO:0007165 signal transduction

Molecular Function

GO:0005525 GTP binding

Cellular Component

GO:0016020 membrane

Contributing signatures

Signatures from InterPro member databases are used to construct an entry.
PROSITE profiles