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Front Genet. 2014 Oct 29;5:366. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00366. eCollection 2014.

Structural mechanisms of human RecQ helicases WRN and BLM.

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Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology Ikoma, Japan.


The RecQ family DNA helicases Werner syndrome protein (WRN) and Bloom syndrome protein (BLM) play a key role in protecting the genome against deleterious changes. In humans, mutations in these proteins lead to rare genetic diseases associated with cancer predisposition and accelerated aging. WRN and BLM are distinguished from other helicases by possessing signature tandem domains toward the C terminus, referred to as the RecQ C-terminal (RQC) and helicase-and-ribonuclease D-C-terminal (HRDC) domains. Although the precise function of the HRDC domain remains unclear, the previous crystal structure of a WRN RQC-DNA complex visualized a central role for the RQC domain in recognizing, binding and unwinding DNA at branch points. In particular, a prominent hairpin structure (the β-wing) within the RQC winged-helix motif acts as a scalpel to induce the unpairing of a Watson-Crick base pair at the DNA duplex terminus. A similar RQC-DNA interaction was also observed in the recent crystal structure of a BLM-DNA complex. I review the latest structures of WRN and BLM, and then provide a docking simulation of BLM with a Holliday junction. The model offers an explanation for the efficient branch migration activity of the RecQ family toward recombination and repair intermediates.


BLM; Bloom syndrome; DNA helicase; Holliday junction; WRN; Werner syndrome; structural biology

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