The DExH protein NPH-II is a processive and directional motor for unwinding RNA

Nature. 2000 Jan 27;403(6768):447-51. doi: 10.1038/35000239.


All aspects of cellular RNA metabolism and processing involve DExH/D proteins, which are a family of enzymes that unwind or manipulate RNA in an ATP-dependent fashion. DExH/D proteins are also essential for the replication of many viruses, and therefore provide targets for the development of therapeutics. All DExH/D proteins characterized to date hydrolyse nucleoside triphosphates and, in most cases, this activity is stimulated by the addition of RNA or DNA. Several members of the family unwind RNA duplexes in an NTP-dependent fashion in vitro; therefore it has been proposed that DExH/D proteins couple NTP hydrolysis to RNA conformational change in complex macromolecular assemblies. Despite the central role of DExH/D proteins, their mechanism of RNA helicase activity remains unknown. Here we show that the DExH protein NPH-II unwinds RNA duplexes in a processive, unidirectional fashion with a step size of roughly one-half helix turn. We show that there is a quantitative connection between ATP utilization and helicase processivity, thereby providing direct evidence that DExH/D proteins can function as molecular motors on RNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Motor Proteins*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • Vaccinia virus / enzymology


  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • RNA
  • RNA Helicases