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DNA Helicase-deficiency Disorders

  1. Julia M Sidorova,
  2. Raymond J Monnat Jr

Published Online: 15 NOV 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0006065.pub2



How to Cite

Sidorova, J. M. and Monnat, R. J. 2010. DNA Helicase-deficiency Disorders. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 NOV 2010


Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) helicases use energy derived from the hydrolysis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to separate the complementary strands of DNA. This article focuses on one family of DNA helicases, the human RECQ (recombination) helicases and the syndromes that arise due to their deficiency. The five human RECQ helicases share a common, conserved helicase domain and all five proteins appear to play important roles in cellular DNA metabolism. Loss-of-function mutations in three family members cause the human cancer predisposition syndromes Bloom syndrome (BS), Werner syndrome (WS) and Rothmund–Thomson syndrome (RTS). This article outlines clinical features of the RECQ helicase-deficiency syndromes and the underlying genetics, biochemistry and function of the associated human RECQ helicase genes and proteins. We discuss how the loss of RECQ function may promote genetic instability and disease pathogenesis, and how RECQ helicases may serve as predictors of cancer risk and the response to therapy.

Key Concepts:

  • RECQ helicases are found in all Kingdoms of life.

  • RECQ helicases use the energy of ATP hydrolysis to unwind the strands of duplex DNA molecules.

  • RECQ helicases play important roles in many aspects of DNA metabolism including DNA replication and repair, recombination and telomere maintenance.

  • Loss of RECQ helicase function is associated with defects in DNA metabolism, genetic instability, reduced cell proliferation and cellular senescence or apoptosis.

  • Heritable human RECQ helicase deficiencies are rare. Three distinct autosomal recessive RECQ helicase deficiency syndromes have been identified thus far.

  • RECQ helicase-deficient individuals have an elevated risk of cancer together with additional developmental or acquired findings.

  • Acquired RECQ helicase deficiencies may be common in adult cancer, where loss-of-function may modify the response to therapy.


  • RECQ helicases;
  • Bloom syndrome;
  • Werner syndrome;
  • Rothmund–Thomson syndrome;
  • DNA replication;
  • DNA repair;
  • telomeres;
  • homologous recombination;
  • genetic instability;
  • cancer predisposition syndrome