Recently, we cloned two highly related human genes, hChlR1 ( DDX11 ) and hChlR2 ( DDX12 ), which appear to be homologs of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae CHL1 gene. Nucleotide sequence analysis suggests that these genes encode new members of the DEAH family of DNA helicases. While the enzymatic activity of CHL1 has not been characterized, the protein is required for the maintenance of high fidelity chromosome segregation in yeast. Here we report that the hChlR1 protein is a novel human DNA helicase. We have expressed and purified hChlR1 using a baculovirus system and analyzed its enzymatic activity. The recombinant hChlR1 protein possesses both ATPase and DNA helicase activities that are strictly dependent on DNA, divalent cations and ATP. These activities are abolished by a single amino acid substitution in the ATP-binding domain. The hChlR1 protein can unwind both DNA/DNA and RNA/DNA substrates. It has a preference for movement in the 5'-->3' direction on short single-stranded DNA templates. However, unlike other DNA helicases, the hChlR1 DNA helicase can translocate along single-stranded DNA in both directions when substrates have a very long single-stranded DNA region. The enzymatic activities of hChlR1 suggest that DNA helicases are required for maintaining the fidelity of chromosome segregation.