DDX3 (or Ded1p), the highly conserved subfamily of the DEAD-box RNA helicase family (40 members in humans), plays important roles in RNA metabolism. DDX3X and DDX3Y, the two human paralogous genes of this subfamily of proteins, have orthologous candidates in a diverse range of eukaryotes, from yeast and plants to animals. While DDX3Y, which is essential for normal spermatogenesis, is translated only in the testes, DDX3X protein is ubiquitously expressed, involved in RNA transcription, RNA splicing, mRNA transport, translation initiation and cell cycle regulation. Studies of recent years have revealed that DDX3X participates in HIV and hepatitis C viral infections, and in hepatocellular carcinoma, a complication of hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections. In the urochordates (i.e., Botryllus schlosseri) and in diverse invertebrate phyla (represented by model organisms such as: Drosophila, Hydra, Planaria), DDX3 proteins (termed also PL10) are involved in developmental pathways, highly expressed in adult undifferentiated soma and germ cells and in some adult and embryos differentiating tissues. As the mechanistic and functional knowledge of DDX3 proteins is limited, we suggest assembling the available data on DDX3 proteins, from all studied organisms and in vitro assays, depicting a unified mechanistic scheme for DDX3 proteins functions. Understanding the diverse functions of DDX3 in multicellular organisms may be particularly important for effective strategies of drug design.
DDX3, PL10, DEAD-box RNA helicases, mRNP, HIV-1, HCV, Cell cycle, Botryllus schlosseri
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