Unzippers, Resolvers and Sensors: A structural and functional biochemistry tale of RNA helicases

Ana Lúcia Monteiro Durão Leitão, Marina C. Costa, Francisco J. Enguita

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The centrality of RNA within the biological world is an irrefutable fact that currently attracts increasing attention from the scientific community. The panoply of functional RNAs requires the existence of specific biological caretakers, RNA helicases, devoted to maintain the proper folding of those molecules, resolving unstable structures. However, evolution has taken advantage of the specific position and characteristics of RNA helicases to develop new functions for these proteins, which are at the interface of the basic processes for transference of information from DNA to proteins. RNA helicases are involved in many biologically relevant processes, not only as RNA chaperones, but also as signal transducers, scaffolds of molecular complexes, and regulatory elements. Structural biology studies during the last decade, founded in X-ray crystallography, have characterized in detail several RNA-helicases. This comprehensive review summarizes the structural knowledge accumulated in the last two decades within this family of proteins, with special emphasis on the structure-function relationships of the most widely-studied families of RNA helicases: the DEAD-box, RIG-I-like and viral NS3 classes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2269-2293
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2015


  • DEAD-box protein
  • Innate immunity
  • Protein-RNA complex
  • RIG-I
  • RNA helicase
  • Structural biology


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