RNA folding is an essential aspect underlying RNA-mediated cellular processes. Many RNAs, including large, multi-domain ribozymes, are capable of folding to the native, functional state without assistance of a protein cofactor in vitro. In the cell, trans-acting factors, such as proteins, are however known to modulate the structure and thus the fate of an RNA. DEAD-box proteins, including Mss116p, were recently found to assist folding of group I and group II introns in vitro and in vivo. The underlying mechanism(s) have been studied extensively to explore the contribution of ATP hydrolysis and duplex unwinding in helicase-stimulated intron splicing. Here we summarize the ongoing efforts to understand the novel role of DEAD-box proteins in RNA folding.
Keywords: DEAD-box proteins; RNA folding; RNA helicase; RNA-protein interactions; intron; ribozyme.