Small G-proteins are structurally-conserved modules that function as molecular on-off switches. They function in many different cellular processes with differential specificity determined by the unique effector-binding surfaces, which undergo conformational changes during the switching action. These switches are typically standalone monomeric modules that form transient heterodimers with specific effector proteins in the ‘on’ state, and cycle to back to the monomeric conformation in the ‘off’ state. A new class of small G-proteins called “Roco” was discovered about a decade ago; this class is distinct from the typical G-proteins in several intriguing ways. Their switch module resides within a polypeptide chain of a large multi-domain protein, always adjacent to a unique domain called COR, and its effector kinase often resides within the same polypeptide. As such, the mechanisms of action of the Roco G-proteins are likely to differ from those of the typical G-proteins. Understanding these mechanisms is important because aberrant activity in the human Roco protein LRRK2 is associated with the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. This review provides an update on the current state of our understanding of the Roco G-proteins and the prospects of targeting them for therapeutic purposes.
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