RNA Helicases: Diverse Roles in Prokaryotic Response to Abiotic Stress

RNA Biol. 2013 Jan;10(1):96-110. doi: 10.4161/rna.22638. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Similar to proteins, RNA molecules must fold into the correct conformation and associate with protein complexes in order to be functional within a cell. RNA helicases rearrange RNA secondary structure and RNA-protein interactions in an ATP-dependent reaction, performing crucial functions in all aspects of RNA metabolism. In prokaryotes, RNA helicase activity is associated with roles in housekeeping functions including RNA turnover, ribosome biogenesis, translation and small RNA metabolism. In addition, RNA helicase expression and/or activity are frequently altered during cellular response to abiotic stress, implying they perform defined roles during cellular adaptation to changes in the growth environment. Specifically, RNA helicases contribute to the formation of cold-adapted ribosomes and RNA degradosomes, implying a role in alleviation of RNA secondary structure stabilization at low temperature. A common emerging theme involves RNA helicases acting as scaffolds for protein-protein interaction and functioning as molecular clamps, holding RNA-protein complexes in specific conformations. This review highlights recent advances in DEAD-box RNA helicase association with cellular response to abiotic stress in prokaryotes.

Keywords: DEAD-box proteins; RNA helicase; abiotic stress; cold-adapted degradosome; cytoskeleton compartmentalization; prokaryotes; ribosome biogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cold Temperature
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Helicases / chemistry
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological


  • RNA
  • RNA Helicases