The survival of motor neurons (SMN) complex is essential for the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) complexes in eukaryotic cells. Reduced levels of SMN cause the motor neuron degenerative disease, spinal muscular atrophy. Complexes containing Gemin3-Gemin4-Gemin5 and Gemin6-Gemin7-unrip persist at similar levels when SMN is reduced. Gemin5-containing subunits bind small nuclear RNA independently of the SMN complex and without a requirement for exogenous ATP. ATP hydrolysis is, however, required for displacement of small nuclear RNAs from the Gemin5-containing subunits and their assembly into snRNPs.