Small molecular weight GTPases are master regulators of eukaryotic signalling, making them prime targets for bacterial virulence factors. Here, we review the recent advances made in understanding how bacterial type III secreted effector proteins directly activate GTPase signalling cascades. Specifically we focus on the SopE/WxxxE family of effectors that functionally mimic guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs): the endogenous activators of Rho-family GTPases. Recent structural and biochemical studies have provided keen insight into both the signalling potency and substrate specificity of bacterial GEFs. Additionally, these bacterial GEFs display fascinating cell biological properties that provide insight into both host cell physiology and infectious disease strategies.
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