The helicase domain of dengue virus NS3 protein (DENV NS3H) contains RNA-stimulated nucleoside triphosphatase ( NTPase), ATPase/helicase, and RNA 5'-triphosphatase (RTPase) activities that are essential for viral RNA replication and capping. Here, we show that DENV NS3H unwinds 3'-tailed duplex with an RNA but not a DNA loading strand, and the helicase activity is poorly processive. The substrate of the divalent cation-dependent RTPase activity is not restricted to viral RNA 5'-terminus, a protruding 5'-terminus made the RNA 5'-triphosphate readily accessible to DENV NS3H. DENV NS3H preferentially binds RNA to DNA, and the functional interaction with RNA is sensitive to ionic strength. (C) 2009 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.