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Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 1998;33(4):259-96.

The protein family of RNA helicases.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.


RNA helicases represent a large family of proteins that have been detected in almost all biological systems where RNA plays a central role. They are ubiquitously distributed over a wide range of organisms and are involved in nuclear and mitochondrial splicing processes, RNA editing, rRNA processing, translation initiation, nuclear mRNA export, and mRNA degradation. RNA helicases are described as essential factors in cell development and differentiation, and some of them play a role in transcription and replication of viral single-stranded RNA genomes. Comparisons of the conserved sequences reveal a close relationship between them and suggest that these proteins might be derived from a common ancestor. Biochemical studies have revealed a strong dependence of the unwinding activity on ATP hydrolysis. Although RNA helicase activity has only been demonstrated for a few examples yet, it is generally believed that all members of the largest subgroups, the DEAD and DEAH box proteins, exhibit this activity.

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