The cDNA library of human pancreatic islets was screened with sera from patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). From the library screening, we isolated a novel cDNA, RNA helicase-like protein (RHELP), which exhibited strong sequence homology to p68 RNA helicase, a prototypic member of the DEAD (Asp-Glu-Ala-Asp) box protein family. Sequence analysis of the cDNA revealed that RHELP contained DEAD sequence motif and other conserved motifs of the DEAD box protein family, indicating that RHELP is a new member of this family. DEAD box-containing proteins are involved in the RNA processing, ribosome assembly, spermatogenesis, embryogenesis, and cell growth and division. RHELP showed 42% and 44% amino acid sequence identity to human p68 RNA helicase and yeast DBP? RNA helicase, respectively, among the DEAD box protein family. Northern blot analysis revealed that RHELP is expressed in most tissues including the liver, lung, tonsil, thymus, and muscle in addition to the pancreatic islets. In vivo or in vitro functions of RHELP as a putative RNA helicase and its potential role as a diabetic autoantigen need to be further investigated. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.