Etoposide quinone is a redox-dependent topoisomerase II poison

Biochemistry. 2011 Jun 28;50(25):5660-7. doi: 10.1021/bi200438m. Epub 2011 Jun 2.


Etoposide is a topoisomerase II poison that is used to treat a variety of human cancers. Unfortunately, 2-3% of patients treated with etoposide develop treatment-related leukemias characterized by 11q23 chromosomal rearrangements. The molecular basis for etoposide-induced leukemogenesis is not understood but is associated with enzyme-mediated DNA cleavage. Etoposide is metabolized by CYP3A4 to etoposide catechol, which can be further oxidized to etoposide quinone. A CYP3A4 variant is associated with a lower risk of etoposide-related leukemias, suggesting that etoposide metabolites may be involved in leukemogenesis. Although etoposide acts at the enzyme-DNA interface, several quinones poison topoisomerase II via redox-dependent protein adduction. The effects of etoposide quinone on topoisomerase IIα-mediated DNA cleavage have been examined previously. Although findings suggest that the activity of the quinone is slightly greater than that of etoposide, these studies were carried out in the presence of significant levels of reducing agents (which should reduce etoposide quinone to the catechol). Therefore, we examined the ability of etoposide quinone to poison human topoisomerase IIα in the absence of reducing agents. Under these conditions, etoposide quinone was ∼5-fold more active than etoposide at inducing enzyme-mediated DNA cleavage. Consistent with other redox-dependent poisons, etoposide quinone inactivated topoisomerase IIα when incubated with the protein prior to DNA and lost activity in the presence of dithiothreitol. Unlike etoposide, the quinone metabolite did not require ATP for maximal activity and induced a high ratio of double-stranded DNA breaks. Our results support the hypothesis that etoposide quinone contributes to etoposide-related leukemogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / toxicity
  • Benzoquinones / metabolism*
  • Benzoquinones / toxicity*
  • Catechols / metabolism
  • DNA Adducts / drug effects
  • DNA Adducts / toxicity
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / metabolism*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / toxicity
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / toxicity
  • Dithiothreitol / toxicity
  • Enzyme Stability / drug effects
  • Etoposide / chemistry
  • Etoposide / metabolism*
  • Etoposide / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / chemically induced
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / enzymology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reducing Agents / pharmacology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Benzoquinones
  • Catechols
  • DNA Adducts
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Reducing Agents
  • quinone
  • Etoposide
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II
  • catechol
  • Dithiothreitol