Helicases of the superfamily (SF) 1 and 2 are involved in virtually all aspects of RNA and DNA metabolism. SF1 and SF2 helicases share a catalytic core with high structural similarity, but different enzymes even within each SF perform a wide spectrum of distinct functions on diverse substrates. To rationalize similarities and differences between these helicases, we outline a classification based on protein families that are characterized by typical sequence, structural, and mechanistic features. This classification complements and extends existing SF1 and SF2 helicase categorizations and highlights major structural and functional themes for these proteins. We discuss recent data in the context of this unifying view of SF1 and SF2 helicases.
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