Physiological Reviews

Inhibition and Termination of Physiological Responses by GTPase Activating Proteins

Erzsébet Ligeti, Stefan Welti, Klaus Scheffzek


Physiological processes are strictly organized in space and time. However, in cell physiology research, more attention is given to the question of space rather than to time. To function as a signal, environmental changes must be restricted in time; they need not only be initiated but also terminated. In this review, we concentrate on the role of one specific protein family involved in biological signal termination. GTPase activating proteins (GAPs) accelerate the endogenously low GTP hydrolysis rate of monomeric guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (GNBPs), limiting thereby their prevalence in the active, GTP-bound form. We discuss cases where defective or excessive GAP activity of specific proteins causes significant alteration in the function of the nervous, endocrine, and hemopoietic systems, or contributes to development of infections and tumors. Biochemical and genetic data as well as observations from human pathology support the notion that GAPs represent vital elements in the spatiotemporal fine tuning of physiological processes.

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