Topoisomerase 1 (Top1), a nuclear enzyme involved in DNA relaxation, is the target of several anticancer drugs. TOP1 mutations occur in camptothecin-resistant tumour cell lines. We explored, in the NCI panel of 60 human tumour cell lines, whether polymorphic variations in the TOP1 gene could explain differences in drug sensitivity. The 21 exons of the gene were fully studied as well as five intronic domains that had previously been shown to harbour single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or mutations. PCR products covering the whole exonic sequences or the relevant intronic domains were subjected to denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography. Nucleotide variations were then determined by sequencing. Discrimination between intronic common and variant homozygous samples was performed using a restriction fragment length polymorphism technique. Only one exonic mutation was detected, at the heterozygous state; it occurs in exon 19 of a colon cancer cell line (HCT-15) and consists of a G>A transition at position 75, resulting in a Met675Ile change. The intronic sequences studied harboured the SNPs expected with allelic frequencies between 20 and 40%. Three major haplotypes, generating 92% of the 10 genotypes encountered, were defined as containing none of the intronic SNPs, or three of them, or all of them. No significant relationship was evidenced between Top1 expression and the TOP1 polymorphisms studied. However, when comparing the cytotoxicity of 138 drugs as a function of the genotypes, several drug groups, namely Top1 inhibitors, antifolates and taxanes, had significantly different IC(50)s as a function of the distribution of the intronic SNPs of the TOP1 gene.