Deinococcus radiodurans RNA ligase (DraRnl) is a template-directed ligase that seals nicked duplexes in which the 3′-OH strand is RNA. DraRnl is a 342 amino acid polypeptide composed of a C-terminal adenylyltransferase domain fused to a distinctive 126 amino acid N-terminal module (a putative OB-fold). An alanine scan of the C domain identified 9 amino acids essential for nick ligation, which are located within nucleotidyltransferase motifs I, Ia, III, IIIa, IV and V. Seven mutants were dysfunctional by virtue of defects in ligase adenylylation: T163A, H167A, G168A, K186A, E230A, F281A and E305A. Four of these were also defective in phosphodiester formation at a preadenylylated nick: G168A, E230A, F281A and E305A. Two nick sealing-defective mutants were active in ligase adenylylation and sealing a preadenylylated nick, thereby implicating Ser185 and Lys326 in transfer of AMP from the enzyme to the nick 5′-PO4. Whereas deletion of the N-terminal domain suppressed overall nick ligation and ligase adenylylation, it did not compromise sealing at a preadenylylated nick. Mutational analysis of 15 residues of the N domain identified Lys26, Gln31 and Arg79 as key constituents. Structure–activity relationships at the essential residues were determined via conservative substitutions. We propose that DraRnl typifies a new clade of polynucleotide ligases. DraRnl homologs are detected in several eukaryal proteomes.