Topological and Functional Properties of the Small GTPases Protein Interaction Network
Small GTP binding proteins of the Ras superfamily (Ras, Rho, Rab, Arf, and Ran) regulate key cellular processes such as signal transduction, cell proliferation, cell motility, and vesicle transport. A great deal of experimental evidence supports the existence of signaling cascades and feedback loops within and among the small GTPase subfamilies suggesting that these proteins function in a coordinated and cooperative manner. The interplay occurs largely through association with bi-partite regulatory and effector proteins but can also occur through the active form of the small GTPases themselves. In order to understand the connectivity of the small GTPases signaling routes, a systems-level approach that analyzes data describing direct and indirect interactions was used to construct the small GTPases protein interaction network. The data were curated from the Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes (STRING) database and include only experimentally validated interactions. The network method enables the conceptualization of the overall structure as well as the underlying organization of the protein-protein interactions. The interaction network described here is comprised of 778 nodes and 1943 edges and has a scale-free topology. Rac1, Cdc42, RhoA, and HRas are identified as the hubs. Ten sub-network motifs are also identified in this study with themes in apoptosis, cell growth/proliferation, vesicle traffic, cell adhesion/junction dynamics, the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase response, transcription regulation, receptor-mediated endocytosis, gene silencing, and growth factor signaling. Bottleneck proteins that bridge signaling paths and proteins that overlap in multiple small GTPase networks are described along with the functional annotation of all proteins in the network.