The RAS/MAPK signal transduction pathway is an intracellular signaling cascade that transmits environmental signals from activated receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) on the cell surface and other endomembranes to transcription factors in the nucleus, thereby linking extracellular stimuli to changes in gene expression. Largely as a consequence of its role in oncogenesis, RAS signaling has been the subject of intense research efforts for many years. More recently, it has been shown that milder perturbations in Ras signaling during embryogenesis also contribute to the etiology of a group of human diseases. Here we report the identification and characterization of the first gain-of-function germline mutation in Drosophila ras1 (ras85D), the Drosophila homolog of human K-ras, N-ras and H-ras. A single amino acid substitution (R68Q) in the highly conserved switch II region of Ras causes a defective protein with reduced intrinsic GTPase activity, but with normal sensitivity to GAP stimulation. The ras1(R68Q) mutant is homozygous viable but causes various developmental defects associated with elevated Ras signaling, including cell fate changes and ectopic survival of cells in the nervous system. These biochemical and functional properties are reminiscent of germline Ras mutants found in patients afflicted with Noonan, Costello or cardio-facio-cutaneous syndromes. Finally, we used ras1(R68Q) to identify novel genes that interact with Ras and suppress cell death.