- The motor enzymes that belong to the family of RNA helicases catalyze the strand separation of duplex RNA via ATP hydrolysis. Among these enzymes, Escherichia coli DbpA is a unique RNA helicase because it possesses ATPase-specific activity toward the peptidyl transferase center in 23 S ribosomal RNA. For this reason, it has been the subject of numerous biochemical and structure-function studies. The ATP-stimulated unwinding activity of DbpA toward specific and nonspecific RNA duplexes has been demonstrated. However, the underlying molecular and structural basis, which facilitates its helicase activities, is presently not known. We combined time-dependent limited proteolysis digestion, fluorescence spectroscopy, and three-dimensional structural homology modeling techniques to study the structural conformations of DbpA with respect to its binding to stoichiometric ratios of RNA and cofactors. We show that the conformational state of DbpA is markedly different in the ADP-bound state than in any other state (ATP- or RNA-bound). These results, together with structural homology studies, suggest that a hinge region located in the core domain of DbpA mediates such conformational changes.