The Pur proteins are an ancient family of sequence-specific single-stranded nucleic acid-binding proteins. They bind a G-rich element in either single- or double-stranded nucleic acids and are capable of displacing the complementary C-rich strand. Recently several reports have described Pur family member knockouts, mutations, and disease aberrations. Together with a recent crystal structure of Purα, these data reveal conserved structural features of these proteins that have been adapted to serve functions unique to higher eukaryotes. In humans Pur proteins are critical for myeloid cell development, muscle development, and brain development, including trafficking of mRNA to neuronal dendrites. Pur family members have been implicated in diseases as diverse as cancer, premature aging, and fragile-X mental retardation syndrome. J. Cell. Physiol. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.