Oncogenic forms of the p21ras genes have been found in a large variety of human malignancies and tumours induced in animals by chemical carcinogens or irradiation. The active form of the p21 ras proteins is the GTP bound state and oncogenic mutations result in the protein being constitutively in the GTP bound active state. There is evidence to suggest that activating mutations can occur either as initiating steps in carcinogenesis or as later events in the evolution to frank neoplasia. To transduce a signal for proliferation and transformation the active GTP form of p21ras must interact with one or more cellular targets. Genetic experiments suggest that one potential effector molecule is the GTPase activating protein GAP. However, the mechanism by which interaction with GAP results in proliferation and transformation remains to be elucidated.