The structure of Ras protein: a model for a universal molecular switch

Trends Biochem Sci. 1991 Oct;16(10):382-7. doi: 10.1016/0968-0004(91)90156-p.


X-ray crystallography has revealed the molecular architecture of the cellular and oncogenic forms of p21Ha-ras, the protein encoded by the human Ha-ras gene, in both its active (GTP-bound) and in its inactive (GDP-bound) forms. From comparison of these two structures, a mechanism is suggested for the GTPase hydrolysis reaction that triggers the conformational change necessary for signal transduction. The structures have also allowed identification of the structural consequences of point mutations and the way in which they interfere with the intrinsic GTPase activity of p21ras. The p21ras structure is similar to that of the G-domain of elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) from Escherichia coli, suggesting that p21ras can serve as a good model for other guanine nucleotide binding proteins.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / physiology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • HRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)