Camptothecin (CPT) and etoposide (ETP) trap topoisomerase-DNA covalent intermediates, resulting in formation of DNA damage that can be cytotoxic if unrepaired. CPT and ETP are prototypes for molecules widely used in chemotherapy of cancer, so defining the mechanisms for repair of damage induced by treatment with these compounds is of great interest. In S. cerevisiae, deficiency in MRE11, which encodes a highly conserved factor, greatly enhances sensitivity to treatment with CPT or ETP. This has been thought to reflect the importance of double-strand break (DSB) repair pathways in the response to these to agents. Here we report that an S. cerevisiae strain expressing the mre11-H59A allele, mutant at a conserved active site histidine, is sensitive to hydroxyurea and also to ionizing radiation, which induces DSBs, but not to CPT or ETP. We show that TDP1, which encodes a tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase activity able to release both 5'- and 3'-covalent topoisomerase-DNA complexes in vitro, contributes to ETP-resistance but not CPT-resistance in the mre11-H59A background. We further show that CPT- and ETP-resistance mediated by MRE11 is independent of SAE2, and thus independent of the coordinated functions of MRE11 and SAE2 in homology-directed repair and removal of Spo11 from DNA ends in meiosis. These results identify a function for MRE11 in the response to topoisomerase poisons that is distinct from its functions in DSB repair or meiotic DNA processing. They also establish that cellular proficiency in repair of DSBs may not correlate with resistance to topoisomerase poisons, a finding with potential implications for stratification of tumors with specific DNA repair deficiencies for treatment with these compounds.