Helicases are a ubiquitous and abundant group of motor proteins that couple NTP binding and hydrolysis to processive unwinding of nucleic acids. By targeting this activity to a wide range of specific substrates, and by coupling it with other catalytic functionality, helicases fulfil diverse roles in virtually all aspects of nucleic acid metabolism. The present review takes a look back at our efforts to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of UvrD-like DNA helicases. Using these well-studied enzymes as examples, we also discuss how helicases are programmed by interactions with partner proteins to participate in specific cellular functions.

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