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RecQ helicases maintain chromosome stability by resolving a number of highly specific DNA structures that would otherwise impede the correct transmission of genetic information. Previous studies have shown that two human RecQ helicases, BLM and WRN, have very similar substrate specificities and preferentially unwind noncanonical DNA structures, such as synthetic Holliday junctions and G-quadruplex DNA. Here, we extend this analysis of BLM to include new substrates and have compared the substrate specificity of BLM with that of another human RecQ helicase, RECQ1. Our findings show that RECQ1 has a distinct substrate specificity compared with BLM. In particular, RECQ1 cannot unwind G-quadruplexes or RNA-DNA hybrid structures, even in the presence of the single-stranded binding protein, human replication protein A, that stimulates its DNA helicase activity. Moreover, RECQ1 cannot substitute for BLM in the regression of a model replication fork and is very inefficient in displacing plasmid D-loops lacking a 3'-tail. Conversely, RECQ1, but not BLM, is able to resolve immobile Holliday junction structures lacking an homologous core, even in the absence of human replication protein A. Mutagenesis studies show that the N-terminal region (residues 1-56) of RECQ1 is necessary both for protein oligomerization and for this Holliday junction disruption activity. These results suggest that the N-terminal domain or the higher order oligomer formation promoted by the N terminus is essential for the ability of RECQ1 to disrupt Holliday junctions. Collectively, our findings highlight several differences between the substrate specificities of RECQ1 and BLM (and by inference WRN) and suggest that these enzymes play nonoverlapping functions in cells.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





17766 - 17776


Adenosine Triphosphatases, Base Sequence, DNA, DNA Helicases, G-Quadruplexes, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Protein Binding, Protein Conformation, Protein Structure, Quaternary, Protein Structure, Tertiary, RecQ Helicases, Recombinant Proteins, Substrate Specificity