The ras oncogene products (ras p2ls) are 21-KDa proteins with activities of GTP binding and hydrolysis. A number of proteins homologous to ras p21 have been discovered and collectively named small molecular weight GTP-binding proteins. These proteins undergo post-translational modification with isoprenoid residues attached to cysteine in their carboxyl terminal. With this modification, they attach to cellular membranes. The biochemical activities of these proteins, i.e., GTP hydrolysis and binding, are regulated by various regulatory factors such as GDP-GTP exchange proteins and GTP-aseactivating proteins, but little is known about the cellular functions and physiological pathways through which they regulate these functions. Botulinum C3 ADP-ribosyltransferase, a 23-KDa exoenzyme secreted from certain strains of types C and D Clostridium botulinum, specifically ADP-ribosylates the rho family of these GTP-binding proteins. This ADP-ribosylation occurs at a specific asparagine residue in their putative effector domain, and presumably interferes with their interaction with a putative effector molecule downstream in signal transduction. C3 exoenzyme, when incubated with or microinjected into cultured cells, ADP-ribosylates a rho gene product in the cells, and causes profound cell rounding with loss of adhesion plaques and collapse of stress fiber. Microinjection of an activated mutant of rho A protein, on the contrary, induced extensive adhesion and actin assembly in cultured cells. These results suggest that the rho family of proteins are involved in morphogenesis and motility of cells via assembly and disassembly of cytoskeletal systems, and botulinum ADP-ribosyltransferase is a useful tool for clarifying the molecular mechanism of these processes.