Under physiological conditions, guanine-rich sequences of DNA and RNA can adopt stable and atypical four-stranded helical structures called G-quadruplexes (G4). Such G4 structures have been shown to occur in vivo and to play a role in various processes such as transcription, translation and telomere maintenance. Owing to their high-thermodynamic stability, resolution of G4 structures in vivo requires specialized enzymes. RHAU is a human RNA helicase of the DEAH-box family that exhibits a unique ATP-dependent G4-resolvase activity with a high affinity and specificity for its substrate in vitro. How RHAU recognizes G4-RNAs has not yet been established. Here, we show that the amino-terminal region of RHAU is essential for RHAU to bind G4 structures and further identify within this region the evolutionary conserved RSM (RHAU-specific motif) domain as a major affinity and specificity determinant. G4-resolvase activity and strict RSM dependency are also observed with CG9323, the Drosophila orthologue of RHAU, in the amino terminal region of which the RSM is the only conserved motif. Thus, these results reveal a novel motif in RHAU protein that plays an important role in recognizing and resolving G4-RNA structures, properties unique to RHAU among many known RNA helicases.
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