Vav, a 95 kDa proto-oncogene product expressed specifically in hematopoietic cells, was originally isolated as a transforming human oncogene. Vav contains an array of functional domains that are involved in interactions with other proteins and, possibly, with lipids. These include, among others, a putative guanine nucleotide exchange domain, a cysteine-rich region similar to the phorbol ester/diacylglycerol-binding domain of protein kinase C, a pleckstrin-homology domain, and Src-homology 2 and 3 (SH2 and SH3, respectively) domains. The presence of these domains, the transforming activity of the vav oncogene, and the rapid increase in tyrosine phosphorylation of Vav induced by triggering of diverse receptors indicate that it plays an important role in hematopoietic cell signaling pathways. Such a role is supported by recent studies using "knockout" mice and transiently transfected T cells, in which Vav deletion or overexpression, respectively, had marked effects on lymphocyte development or activation. The presence of a putative guanine nucleotide exchange domain, the prototype of which is found in the dbl oncogene product, implies that Vav functions as a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for one (or more) members of the Ras-like family of small GTP-binding proteins. In support of such a role, Vav preparations were found in some (but not other) studies to mediate in vitro-specific GEF activity for Ras. Additional studies are required to identify the physiological regulators and targets of Vav, and its exact role in hematopoietic cell development and signaling.