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Human RNase 6 is a cationic secreted protein that belongs to the RNase A superfamily. Its expression is induced in neutrophils and monocytes upon bacterial infection, suggesting a role in host defence. We present here the crystal structure of RNase 6 obtained at 1.72 Å (1 Å=0.1 nm) resolution, which is the first report for the protein 3D structure and thereby setting the basis for functional studies. The structure shows an overall kidney-shaped globular fold shared with the other known family members. Three sulfate anions bound to RNase 6 were found, interacting with residues at the main active site (His15, His122 and Gln14) and cationic surface-exposed residues (His36, His39, Arg66 and His67). Kinetic characterization, together with prediction of protein–nucleotide complexes by molecular dynamics, was applied to analyse the RNase 6 substrate nitrogenous base and phosphate selectivity. Our results reveal that, although RNase 6 is a moderate catalyst in comparison with the pancreatic RNase type, its structure includes lineage-specific features that facilitate its activity towards polymeric nucleotide substrates. In particular, enzyme interactions at the substrate 5′ end can provide an endonuclease-type cleavage pattern. Interestingly, the RNase 6 crystal structure revealed a novel secondary active site conformed by the His36–His39 dyad that facilitates the polynucleotide substrate catalysis.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochemical Journal


Portland Press Ltd.

Publication Date





1523 - 1536