Ras is a low-molecular-weight guanine nucleotide (GDP/GTP)-binding protein that transduces signals for growth and differentiation in eukaryotes. In mammals, the importance of Ras in regulating growth is underscored by the observation that activating mutations in ras genes are found in many animal tumors. Colletorichum trifolii is a filamentous fungal pathogen of alfalfa which causes anthracnose disease. To investigate signaling pathways that regulate growth and development in this fungus, a gene encoding a Ras homolog (CT-Ras) was cloned from C. trifolii. CT-Ras exhibited extensive amino acid similarity to Ras proteins from higher and lower eukaryotes. A single amino acid change resulting in mutationally activated CT-Ras induced cellular transformation of mouse (NIH 3T3) fibroblasts and tumor formation in nu/nu mice. In Colletotrichum, mutationally activated CT-Ras induced abnormal hyphal proliferation and defects in polarized growth, and significantly reduced differentiation in a nutrient-dependent manner. These results show that C. trifolii Ras is a functional growth regulator in both mammals and fungi, and demonstrate that proper regulation of Ras is required for normal fungal growth and development.