A variety of systems use nucleoside triphosphate hydrolysis to control or provide energy for biological processes, mediated through protein-protein interactions. The nature of this coupling may vary, but often there is a degree of similarity. In this paper, two systems are compared: actomyosin in muscle and p21ras in a signal transduction pathway as yet undefined. The mechanism of the nucleotide triphosphate hydrolysis and the consequent changes in the protein-nucleotide complex have been investigated, to understand how the coupling to biological function is achieved. The basal nucleoside triphosphatase mechanisms are compared and the roles of proteins that activate the hydrolysis, actin and GAP, are discussed. The cleavage process was probed by stereochemical techniques to determine the basic mechanism, of either a phosphorylated enzyme intermediate or direct displacement of nucleoside diphosphate by water. Phosphate-water oxygen exchange probes were used to investigate nucleoside triphosphate and inorganic phosphate release steps. A new method of probing the kinetics of inorganic phosphate release directly has been developed. In muscle, this process seems likely to be related directly to force generation. In the GAP-ras system, measurement of phosphate release is allowing the mechanism of the GAP-p21ras interaction to be probed.