Small G proteins belong to a superfamily of GTPases related to the protooncogene ras, and function as master control elements for a range of cellular functions. This ability is related to their low rate of substrate turnover; GTPases catalyse the conversion of GTP to GDP, but with a rate in the order of one substrate per second, orders of magnitude slower than 'good' enzyme catalysis, but placing the reaction into the temporal frame of many cellular processes including signal transduction, cytoskeletal reorganization and vesicle trafficking. In this article, Mark Field, Bassam Ali and Helen Field describe some recent advances in G-protein studies in the parasite field, concentrating on the protozoan parasites. Because of their numerous roles in cell biology, understanding parasite G proteins has great potential for increasing our knowledge of parasite cellular physiology, as well as providing important inroads into vital processes for potential therapeutic exploitation. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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