Translin is a highly conserved RNA-and DNAbinding protein that plays essential roles in eukaryotic cells. Human translin functions as an octamer, but in the octameric crystallographic structure, the residues responsible for nucleic acid binding are not accessible. Moreover, electron microscopy data reveal very different octameric configurations. Consequently, the functional assembly and the mechanism of nucleic acid binding by the protein remain unclear. Here, we present an integrative study combining small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), site-directed mutagenesis, biochemical analysis and computational techniques to address these questions. Our data indicate a significant conformational heterogeneity for translin in solution, formed by a lesser-populated compact octameric state resembling the previously solved X-ray structure, and a highly populated open octameric state that had not been previously identified. On the other hand, our SAXS data and computational analyses of translin in complex with the RNA oligonucleotide (GU)12 show that the internal cavity found in the octameric assemblies can accommodate different nucleic acid conformations. According to this model, the nucleic acid binding residues become accessible for binding, which facilitates the entrance of the nucleic acids into the cavity. Our data thus provide a structural basis for the functions that translin performs in RNA metabolism and transport.