Repetitive RNA unwinding by RNA helicase A facilitates RNA annealing

Hye Ran Koh, Li Xing, Lawrence Kleiman, Sua Myong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Helicases contribute to diverse biological processes including replication, transcription and translation. Recent reports suggest that unwinding of some helicases display repetitive activity, yet the functional role of the repetitiveness requires further investigation. Using single-molecule fluorescence assays, we elucidated a unique unwinding mechanism of RNA helicase A (RHA) that entails discrete substeps consisting of binding, activation, unwinding, stalling and reactivation stages. This multi-step process is repeated many times by a single RHA molecule without dissociation, resulting in repetitive unwinding/rewinding cycles. Our kinetic and mutational analysis indicates that the two double stand RNA binding domains at the N-terminus of RHA are responsible for such repetitive unwinding behavior in addition to providing an increased binding affinity to RNA. Further, the repetitive unwinding induces an efficient annealing of a complementary RNA by making the unwound strand more accessible. The complex and unusual mechanism displayed by RHA may help in explaining how the repetitive unwinding of helicases contributes to their biological functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8556-8564
Number of pages9
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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