One of the earliest structural changes observed in cells in response to many extracellular factors is membrane ruffling: the formation of motile cell surface protrusions containing a meshwork of newly polymerized actin filaments. It is becoming clear that actin reorganization is an integral part of early signal transduction pathways, and that many signalling molecules interact with the actin cytoskeleton. The small GTP-binding protein Rac is a key regulator of membrane ruffling, and proteins that can regulate Rac activity, such as Bcr, are likely to act on this signalling pathway. In addition, several previously characterized signal transducing molecules are implicated in the membrane-ruffling response, including Ras, the adaptor protein Grb2, phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase, phospholipase A2 and phorbol ester-responsive proteins. Changes in polyphosphoinositide metabolism and intracellular Ca2+ levels may also play a role. A number of actin-binding and organizing proteins localize to membrane ruffles and are potential targets for these signal transducing molecules.