Dual role of Ras and Rho proteins: At the cutting edge of life and death

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Small GTP-binding proteins of the Ras superfamily are master controllers of the cell physiology. The range of processes in which these proteins are involved include cell cycle progression, cell division, regulation of cell morphology and motility and intracellular trafficking of molecules and organelles. The study of apoptosis, the physiological form of cell suicide, is progressively linking the functions of small G proteins to the control of the mechanisms that trigger the genetic programmes of cell death. To date, isoforms of the Ras and Rho groups have been related to both promotion and suppression of apoptosis. Further, signalling pathways driven by these proteins have been associated with the function and/or expression of molecules that regulate apoptotic responses. Thus, all available evidence points to a critical role for Ras and Rho proteins as major gatekeepers of the decision between cellular life and death.

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