Artemis is a vertebrate nuclease with both endo- and exonuclease activities that acts on a wide range of nucleic acid substrates. It is the main nuclease in the non-homologous DNA end-joining pathway (NHEJ). Not only is Artemis important for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in NHEJ, it is essential in opening the DNA hairpin intermediates that are formed during V(D)J recombination. Thus, humans with Artemis deficiencies do not have T- or B-lymphocytes and are diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). While Artemis is the only vertebrate nuclease capable of opening DNA hairpins, it has also been found to act on other DNA substrates that share common structural features. Here, we discuss the key structural features that all Artemis DNA substrates have in common, thus providing a basis for understanding how this structure-specific nuclease recognizes its DNA targets.