DEAD, DEAH and DExH proteins are involved in almost every facet of RNA biochemistry. Members of these protein families exhibit an RNA-dependent ATPase activity and some possess an ATP-dependent RNA helicase activity. Although genetic studies have identified specific functions for certain DEx(D)/(H) proteins from which an RNA substrate can be reasonably inferred, only DbpA from Escherichia coli has been shown to exhibit significant RNA specificity in vitro. Here we describe the characterization of YxiN from Bacillus subtilis, the second DEx(D)/(H) protein to show significant RNA specificity as an isolated, homogenous protein. The ATPase activity of YxiN, like that of DbpA, is stimulated by a 154 nt fragment of 23S rRNA. YxiN has a 2 nM apparent binding constant for this fragment, yet its ATPase activity shows 1800-fold RNA specificity. Along with the conserved motifs shared among all DEAD proteins, YxiN and DbpA have a conserved C-terminal extension. This extension is highly conserved in several additional DEAD proteins. We propose that the C-terminus identifies a protein sub-family whose members bind 23S rRNA and that proteins of this family are likely to function in rRNA maturation/ribosome biogenesis or an unappreciated aspect of translation.
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