Helicases: an overview

Methods Mol Biol. 2010;587:1-12. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-355-8_1.


Helicases are essential enzymes involved in all aspects of nucleic acid metabolism including DNA replication, repair, recombination, transcription, ribosome biogenesis and RNA processing, translation, and decay. They occur in vivo as part of molecular complexes that include the components required for each specific step of nucleic acid metabolism. The role of the helicases is to utilize the energy derived from nucleoside triphosphate hydrolysis to translocate along nucleic acid strands, unwind/separate the helical structure of double-stranded nucleic acid, and, in some cases, disrupt protein-nucleic acid interactions. Because of their essential function, helicases are ubiquitous and evolutionary conserved proteins. This chapter briefly highlights helicase structure and activities and provides examples of the helicases involved in nucleic acid metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Helicases* / chemistry
  • DNA Helicases* / genetics
  • DNA Helicases* / metabolism
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA Helicases* / chemistry
  • RNA Helicases* / genetics
  • RNA Helicases* / metabolism
  • RNA Splicing
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • DNA Helicases
  • RNA Helicases