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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2008 Apr;18(2):243-57. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Mar 10.

On helicases and other motor proteins.

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  • 1W.M. Keck Structural Biology Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1 Bungtown Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, United States.


Helicases are molecular machines that utilize energy derived from ATP hydrolysis to move along nucleic acids and to separate base-paired nucleotides. The movement of the helicase can also be described as a stationary helicase that pumps nucleic acid. Recent structural data for the hexameric E1 helicase of papillomavirus in complex with single-stranded DNA and MgADP has provided a detailed atomic and mechanistic picture of its ATP-driven DNA translocation. The structural and mechanistic features of this helicase are compared with the hexameric helicase prototypes T7gp4 and SV40 T-antigen. The ATP-binding site architectures of these proteins are structurally similar to the sites of other prototypical ATP-driven motors such as F1-ATPase, suggesting related roles for the individual site residues in the ATPase activity.

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