We present evidence that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS) non-structural protein 13 (Nsp13) modulates the Z-RNA dependent regulated cell death pathways . We show that Z-prone sequences (called flipons ) exist in coronavirus and provide a signature (Z-sig) that enables identification of the animal viruses from which the human pathogens arose. We also identify a potential RIP Homology Interaction Motif (RHIM) in the helicase Nsp13 that resembles those present in proteins that initiate Z-RNA-dependent cell death through interactions with the Z-RNA sensor protein ZBP1. These two observations allow us to suggest a model in which Nsp13 down regulates Z-RNA activated innate immunity by two distinct mechanisms. The first involves a novel ATP-independent Z-flipon helicase (flipase) activity in Nsp13 that differs from that of canonical A-RNA helicases. This flipase prevents formation of Z-RNAs that would otherwise activate cell death pathways. The second mechanism likely inhibits the interactions between ZBP1 and the Receptor Interacting Proteins Kinases RIPK1 and RIPK3 by targeting their RHIM domains. Together the described Nsp13 RHIM and flipase activities have the potential to alter the host response to coronaviruses and impact the design of drugs targeting the Nsp13 protein. The Z-sig and RHIM domains may provide a way of identifying previously uncharacterized viruses that are potentially pathogenic for humans.